Back in 1987, Poppy had to drop out of school and miss her Class 10 exams. She didn’t think she would be able to study after that and she’d forgotten all about school when she took up odd jobs, one after another. But then life would take her back to school and she would be one of 21 trans persons who’d finish her tenth standard equivalent exams with the help of the Kerala Literacy Mission, and be felicitated by Education Minister Raveendranath in the capital city.
“I thought it’d be difficult to go back to school, to study again. But when I started attending the classes at the Kollam panchayat every Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised that I could remember quite a lot of it. I was good in my studies back then but circumstances at home didn’t let me go on. And now, I am so interested to learn that I got pretty decent grades – an A, four B+, three B and a C+. I still struggle a little with Math. I have already enrolled for Class XI,” says Poppy, on a call from Kollam.
She has gone back to her city after receiving the coveted certificate. “I never thought I could study again. The opportunity came after I met the TG (transgender) community. We are such a misunderstood bunch of people. But life got better and I came to know about the government literacy mission, offering a second chance for the TG dropouts. The books were free, there was no exam fee and we even got a monthly stipend of Rs 1000,” Poppy says.
Poppy and a few others shared their experience in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. They have all been part of the ‘Samanwaya’ project that the Saksharatha Mission was offering for transgender persons to continue their education.
Kollam Panchayat’s role
Eight trans persons including Poppy who wrote the tenth standard equivalent exams are from Kollam, and got help from a community-based organisation working for the Kerala Aids Control Society. Seven of them passed the exams, the eighth could not write one of the papers.
The KACS has 59 projects for various communities. Naeema, manager of the TG project, talks about the programme. “When it is a CBO, the director, the manager and the secretary would all be from the community. The CBO for MSM or gays began in 2003 but it is ten years later that a separate wing was started for the TG community. Our basic aim is HIV prevention among the community and offering tests twice a year for it. Community members are also tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections every three months. It is as part of our welfare programmes that the community members who are interested in continuing their education enrolled in the Saksharatha Mission project,” she says.
Kollam district became the first panchayat to use funds for the TG community in 2016. “Back then we used it for cultural activities that community members were interested in. Recently funds were offered for classes on bridal makeup, another profession the members are keen on. There was also a class for tailoring. In December last year, the Collector and the Sub Collector coordinated a four-day awareness programme for 20 college students from across the state. They were taken to where trans people lived and worked and they interacted with the community. The programme was called Mission Transfy.”
It is Manikandan, a staff at the CBO office, that conducted the survey to find out members of the community who had once dropped out of school and were interested in pursuing them.