Mongoyo Primary School is located in far northern Uganda
In October 2018, lightning struck the Mongoyo Primary School compound in a far northwestern corner of Uganda, killing three children and sending over 70 to the hospital. ACLENet’s site investigation team traveled to investigate this mass casualty incident, assessing the physical property as well as speaking with teachers, parents, surviving students, rescuers, and other witnesses. The findings were reported at the International Conference for Lightning Protection in 2021 . Investigations like this help researchers and safety advocates to define the types of risks school children experience and to plan appropriate protection strategies.
When Engineers Without Borders PolyTech (EWB/PT) approached the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network (ACLENet) for PolyTech, a large solar lightning protection company in Denmark to volunteer materials and expertise to protect a school, ACLENet assigned Mongoyo Primary School.
There were 19 buildings in the original version of the project including the main compound of the school plus additional buildings constructed around the main compound including staff homes, church buildings, and other support structures. To PolyTech's credit, they committed to protecting all of the buildings including the teacher homes.
A combination of three major challenges; remoteness, covid-19, and uncommon structures presented hurdles that almost failed the project. Additionally, there was drought, teacher strikes, inflation, supply chain problems, particularly with steel, changes in the school such as demolition of buildings or change in roofing that we would not be aware of till we showed up to protect the structures, and aspects that we had no experience in handling such as LPS for grass thatched houses for the first time and rocky soil kept us from doing our usual earthing system. The Lightning Protection Working Group met the design challenges and forged new solutions to be reported to the world's LP leaders at ICLP2022 meeting in October in Cape Town.