Runyanya Primary School is located in Central Uganda
Runyanya Primary School is government public institution located in Kikube parish, Kiryandongo sub county, Kiryandongo district of Uganda, 210km (130 miles) north of Kampala (GPS 391943.4, 209811.4). On the 28th June 2011, 18 children died instantly and 36 others were injured when lightning struck the school during a downpour. The pupils were in their classrooms waiting for the downpour to subside before going home.
This incident happened only months before Richard Tushemereirwe and Mary Ann Cooper, co-founders of ACLENet, met at a NAM S&T meeting on lightning in Nepal in 2011. On learning of this incident, they pledged to each work together to change the risk of death and injury from lightning across Africa.
After lightning protection (LP) was installed at Runyanya, the Head Teacher wrote to tell us that the 2011 deaths caused enrollment to fall from about 600 to 400 because parents were afraid to send their children to school. After LP installation, enrollment rose to above 800 pupils as families felt safe sending their children to school. Current enrollment is 426 boys and 418 girls with 16 full time staff members.
Less than a decade before, lightning had hit Runyanya, throwing Nurse Mary, at the school giving immunizations, through a window into the courtyard. Mary helped us investigate a simmilar incident where 3 children were killed and dozens others injured at Mongoyo School for which designs are currently being drawn.
Gerrit Hendrik Meyer and Kirk Risch, from DEHN-Africa (South Africa) and pictured in some of the photos below, were selfless in their support of this project, designing the Lightning Protection Systems (LPS), traveling to Uganda more than once to train our staff of engineers and installers and to work on the installations themselves for the three schools (Runyanya, Buramba and Nkurungiro) in our first wave of 'Lightning Kills! Save a Life in Africa' campaign in 2016 and 2017.
Runyanya Primary School layout with initial protection plan overview
The new DEHN (tall) lightning rod next to the old arrestor we see at many schools.
Most engineers, architects and electricians have no knowledge of proper lightning protection because it is such a specialized field. Often, parents and school administrators will be told that only one rod/arrestor will protect the entire school complex.
Classroom buildings after Lightning Protection System installed
Gerrit Hendrik Meyer, DEHN-Africa
Gerrit and his colleague Kirk worked selflessly, volunteering their time to design LP sytems, train our installation teams and travel to Uganda to work personally on the LP installations at Runyanya, Buramba and Nkurungiro schools in 2016-17.
Kirk Risch, DEHN-Africa
Kirk and Gerrit worked selflessly, volunteering their time to design LP sytems, train our installation teams and travel to Uganda to work personally on the LP installations at Runyanya, Buramba and Nkurungiro schools in 2016-17.
Students help complete installation
Sometimes students will pitch in to help finish the installation by filling in the trenches where the earthing/grounding wires have been installed.
Lightning Safety Education
Educational programs on lightning safety are given to students, teachers and the community after each installation is completed. We also stress the responsiblility each parent and students have in preventing vandalism of the LP system.
Prior lightning damage to Runyanya School
Nurse Mary was thrown through this window when a previous lightning strike hit Runyanya School while she was giving immunizations. Nurse Mary has become a volunteer with ACLENet when it investigates lightning injuries at other schools.