Kenyan School Kids Need Protection From Lightning

It is known that some parts of Kenya, especially Gusiiland, Luoland, Kericho, Bomet, Nandi, North Rift, the Southern Parts of Maasailand, the Coastal Strip, etc., are prone to lightning! While we know that lightning itself is not fully understood (that indeed is why there are many theories surrounding the science behind the phenomenon), lightning arrester technology offers adequate, safe passage of the large electric current generated during a strike to flow safely to the earth without causing any damage to buildings, facilities, equipment, etc. That of course means that people within the protection zone of the lightning arrester mast will be safe in all practical probability during the strikes.

In the past, there was a lightning strike in Biego Primary School in Nyamira that killed a number of school children. The tragedy was so serious that the then president Moi appointed a Lightning Protection Commission under the chairmanship of Professor Bob Jalang’o Akelo, who was later my professor at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Electrical Engineering! The commission, amongst other things, was tasked with ensuring that all public schools in Kenya had lighting arresters installed so that the kids, teachers and support staff would be safe during thunderstorms. We may not know why the commission never achieved its goal and mandate but the fact that lives are being lost to lightning calls for further action. Recently, some some school kids in Western Kenya were stuck while they sheltered from the rain under a tree. Kenyans know that livestock are also struck in many places within the republic.

While the people and the government cannot change nature, a lot can be done to ensure no damage is done by natural calamities. Resources and expertise are needed for any efforts meant at protecting the public from natural calamities such as lightning strikes, earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, floods, the effects of droughts, etc. In the case of lightning, the country needs to take action and save lives. Public buildings, schools, colleges, market centres, etc. need to have lightning arresters installed to protect people and property. It is important that Kenyan authorities take this seriously and set aside financial resources continually to ensure such protection measures are effected.

The Professor Jalang’o commission, I believe, was also tasked with educating the public on ways to protect themselves during rains to ensure safety from any lightning bolts that may occur. That is a task that can also be revived, revitalized and be allocated to people who have some reasonable level of understanding about natural calamities including lightning. The same people can preside over installation, testing and maintenance of any lightning masts and other protection gadgetry.

All people need safety from lightning during thunderstorms. Children, who are most vulnerable as they tend to play outside during the rains as they are ignorant of the danger from lightning, need special protection. That is why every Kenyan public school should have lightning protection. The Kenya government, in our opinion, should take this seriously and take urgent measures to prevent further loss of human life and property. Safety, as we all know, is paramount! That is why action is needed urgently!

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