Kerala to launch India’s first transgender school

21st Dec 2016
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Kerala is all set to make history again. Following the introduction of the transgender policy to the country last year, the state will soon be home to India’s first transgender school.

The brainchild of Vijayaraja Mallika, a social activist and member of the transgender community herself, the school will have an initial intake of 10 transgender students and conduct examinations equivalent to the Class 10 and 12 boards. The proposal, drafted by Vijayaraja, was introduced as an initiative to provide transgender students with a sense of “security, salvation, and sustainability,” as stated by the Indian Express.

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Sahaj International School, as it will be called, will be led by six members of the transgender community, all of whom are associated with the TransIndia Foundation. Along with Vijayaraja, these include names like Faisal CK and Maya Menon. The Foundation, which is fast gaining momentum, is a social organisation fighting for the rights of the transgender community.

In another interview with Indian Express, Rudrani Chhetri, a transgender member of the Mitr Trust, addressed the difficulties faced by members of the community in exchanging notes following the demonetisation, due to their lack of official IDs or documents. Rudrani says that despite the Supreme Court’s “formal recognition” of the community back in 2014, the majority of the masses still do not understand the community, thus failing to treat the latter as ordinary individuals. Subsequently, some members of the community have not yet managed to open or utilise their bank accounts, either due to non-cooperation by the staff or because of the personal discomfort they endure whilst waiting in line.

For the same reasons, members of the community have usually been denied access to education at public or private schools. Some have even dropped out, being unable to cope with the harassment they are subjected to for being ‘different’.

For this reason, Vijayaraja Mallika and others have decided to take matters into their own hands.

“Even though organisations like Kochi Metro are coming forward to provide job opportunities for transgenders, the lack of qualifications is seen as a challenge among transgenders,” says Vijayaraja, who is a post-graduate herself.

The first 10 students of the school hail from differing social backgrounds. Additionally, a group of teachers and social workers have come forward to offer their assistance. According to the initiators, once they can gauge the success of the school, they will open it up to more members of the community. The aim lies in not only making sure that members of the community fulfil their right to education, it is also to give those who were forced out of school a chance to resume and complete their studies.

However, the journey has not been without its hiccups. Most individuals they had approached for rented space turned them down once they heard who the school would be catering to. “We must have been turned down by at least 50 building owners,” said Vijayaraja, who finally managed to secure space from a Christian organisation.

In matters of funding, the activists have been tapping into their own savings and also collecting from other social organisations and individual supporters. “The revised 2016 Budget allocates Rs 10 crore for welfare programmes for transgenders in the state and 58 NGOs have already submitted projects and proposals for the same. The practicality of such projects is doubtful. Therefore, we will approach the government for financial help only after it proves to be worthwhile,” said Vijayaraja to Deccan Chronicle.

The school will be inaugurated on December 30 and will follow the curriculum under the National Open School system.

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