The school campus is approximately 6 miles southeast of Mbarara, the 4th largest city in Uganda. It is half a mile down an unpaved road off of the main road from Mbarara to Isingiro. You can find it on Google maps by searching “St. Patrick School, Mbarara, Uganda” or entering GPS coordinates for the school: -0.6492673, 30.6767293. The most recent satellite view on Google Maps shows the entire campus, including all of the buildings and the sports fields to the north.
The school campus was developed in 6 “phases” from 2018 to 2023.
Aerial View of Campus – September, 2023
While Uganda provides free primary education to its people, issues with funding, rural populations, and inadequate facilities are common. Girls aren’t always given the same opportunity at an education as boys are. (However, the student body at St. Patrick’s is comprised of 50% girls and 50% boys.)
The Ministry of Education in Uganda sets the same school calendar for every school in that country. The school year normally begins each February, and has 3 terms. The first 2 terms are 13 weeks, followed by a 3-week break, when the boarding students go back home. The 3 rd term is about 11 weeks, followed by a long break beginning in November, until the new school year begins.
In Uganda, Nursery schools are for children 3 – 5 yrs. old, what would be called Pre-K through Kindergarten in the U.S. Primary schools are grades 1 – 7. Students must pass a comprehensive exam at the end of P7 (7 th grade) in order to continue their education in Secondary school, which is 4 years for those wanting to go on to a trade school, or 6 years for students planning to attend university. The exam must be taken at a school which has been granted an Examination Centre number after an inspection by the Uganda National Examinations Board. St. Patrick's has qualified to be an Examination Centre.
Students come from a large area, including Mbarara, the nearby villages and countryside, and as far away as Kampala (150 miles from the school). Approximately 2/3 of them are boarding students. Day students travel to the school by private vehicle or by St. Patrick school bus.
The first year, the school opened in February 2019 with 318 students. The enrollment has increased each year. By the 2023 school year, the school had reached its planned capacity, with 853 students. There were 550 boarding students, including the 206 students attending on sponsorships. We intend to maintain a similar level of sponsored students in coming years.
Primary grade students coming to St. Patrick's from other schools take a placement test at the beginning of the school year in order to be assigned to the proper grade level. The student body is split evenly between girls and boys, from Nursery School through Grade 7.
After Headmaster Maxmas Birungi was hired by Fr. Julius, he helped recruit, interview and hire the teachers and staff members before the 2019 school year began. The Administrative staff includes an Assistant Headmaster, Director of Studies, Bursar, and school nurse. There are 40 members of the teaching staff for the 2022 school year, and 20 support staff members, including cooks, bus drivers, matrons, and security. There is also a Uganda support group, the School Organization Committee, which helps the school function.
( Headmaster Mr. Maxmas Birungi at his desk. )
( Director of Studies Mr. Alven Agaba and other P6-P7 teachers who chaperoned their students on a study trip to Queen Elizabeth Nat'l Park and nearby points of interest )
( Uganda School Organization Committee members )
( Staff photo taken during Parents Visit Day 2022 )
Halfway through the first term at St. Patrick Nursery & Primary School is Parents Visit Day. Parents are invited to visit the school, hear welcome speeches by Fr. Julius and the Headmaster, meet the teachers, see the school campus, and enjoy a meal with the students. Pictured are staff with the student body in the background. Regarding the first Parents Visit Day, in 2019, Fr. Julius wrote,
"Parents were excited to see their children after 6 weeks in boarding school and many of the parents were happy that their children were looking so healthy. Some of the parents could be heard saying 'How shall we manage these children when they come for holidays since they eat so well while at school?' I was happy to hear such comments because one of our goals was to improve the nutrition of our students."
( 2022 Parents Visit Day presentations in St. Francis of Assisi Auditorium )
Having a safe environment is important. In addition to having a gated entrance, the main campus is enclosed by a security wall. Tall fencing surrounds the sports fields adjacent to the main campus. Security cameras have been installed. Two security guards walk the grounds at night. One man is in the gate house during the day.
The road past the school is still unpaved, but in 2022 the campus roads and walkways were paved to make it easier and safer to get around the campus, especially during the two annual rainy seasons.
( Harmon Hall, the girls' dormitory )
In the dormitories, each floor has a rooms for a teacher and matrons, who can keep watch over the students.
( Meehan Hall, the boys’ dormitory )
Good nutrition for our kids is one of our goals. The school provides 3 healthy meals, 2 healthy snacks, and clean drinking water. Even the day students are given an early breakfast at the school, usually white porridge with milk and bread, and brown (millet) porridge before they go home. The boarding students enjoy beds with mattresses and electricity - - a better environment than what many rural homes can provide.
Tidy dorm room (before Parents Visit Day)
Chores are a part of student life as well. The boarding students Grade 4 and older do their own laundry. (All students have school uniforms and “play” clothes.) Matrons take care of the younger ones.
The school is open to children of all Faiths, while acknowledging its Catholic background. Students have weekly opportunities for Masses celebrated by the chaplain from Mbarara or by Father Julius during his bi-weekly campus visits. (The drive from his parish in Rukungiri is 2.5 hrs.)
( Fr. Julius and Fr. Charles (chaplain) celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Mass )
In order for students to have places for recreation, a soccer field and three sports courts (basketball, volleyball, and “netball”) were constructed on our land adjacent to the north border of the main campus. Two of the sports courts are paved; otherwise they would be mud during the rainy seasons and dust during the dry seasons. The soccer field has been planted with grass. (The grass has a real struggle with the soccer field’s constant use!)
( Sports Fields - before grass was planted on soccer field )