The Thiboloha School for the Deaf and Blind in Qwaqwa has been earmarked as the Free State’s pilot for the development of a standard risk assessment tool roll-out. The project is aimed at safeguarding learners with disabilities and their teachers with the hope to increase access to mainstream education. This is a country-wide intervention in partnership between Santam and the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), local municipal structures, as well as local communities.According to Tersia Mdunge, Corporate Social Investment manager at Santam, the pilot was conducted as part of the insurance company’s CSI programme, and assisted with the development of a standard risk assessment tool based on own survey practices that can be utilised to identify the risk hotspots in special needs schools in South Africa. It is through the insurance company’s Emthunzini BBBEE Community Trust. The second phase of the safety project was undertaken in September at the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality. This assessment was attended by 21 representatives of learners with special education needs and Free State Provincial Safety Coordinators. Mdunge said the company has developed ten measures to assess and address risks in all schools and prepare them to action learner safety and security. “We hope that the representatives will conduct self-assessment at their own schools and continue to advocate for the safety of their leaners,” she said.Mdunge said a success pilot of the measures at St Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg has produced key learnings for other schools. According to Mdunge, the project was inspired by a Stats SA report that 600 000 South African children with disabilities are not attending school. According to her, this is predominantly due to mainstream schools not having the provisions as well as special needs schools being ill-equipped with teachers who are unable to handle multiple children with disabilities.