For transgender persons, even completing basic education is no mean task, since social pressure pushes many members of the community to drop out early. A group of transgender activists in Kerala, however, are determined to help members of the community get a second chance at education and employment.
Ernakulam-based transgender activist and family counselor Vijayaraja Mallika, along with six others, has formulated a 5-year project to provide 12th standard equivalency education to members of the transgender community unable to complete schooling due to societal pressures.
â€śIn the initial phase, with the help of nearly 60 social workers, we will teach 10 transgenders till 7th/10th/12th standard in order to make them eligible for government jobs. In a survey we conducted over the past six months, we found that 58% of the transgenders in the state are school drop outs. This is not because they did not wish to continue their studies, but because they were forced to stay away from school due to verbal and physical abuse,â€ť Vijayaraja Mallika told The News Minute.
She said that the programme, which took shape over a period of six months, will be based on the equivalency courses offered by the National Open School.
They group has already identified seven persons across different age groups for the first batch of the programme, which they hope to run out of a rented house in Ernakulam. The house, which will function as a short stay home, will accommodate the students for the full duration of their courses.
However, prejudice towards the transgender community is making it hard for the group to find a suitable space from which to run their centre.
â€śSociety only sees a transgender person as a sex worker, but we are looking to address the needs of those members who have made a conscious choice not to indulge in sex work. Despite looking for a house in the city for the past three months, we have only been getting negative responses from landlords. Some tell us to our face that they are suspicious that we will run a prostitution centre out of the house. Others simply refuse to respond to us,â€ť Vijayaraja Mallika said.
The 31-year-old says that was her own personal struggle to survive in a co-education environment till she completed her post-graduation degree in Social Work, led her to the idea of an educational centre for transgender school dropouts.
â€śA sustainable existence is what the transgender community needs today. Education is the only key that will equip our community members with the kind of thinking that is required to engage in matters of the society. Moreover, who does not wish to be financially independent?â€ť Vijayaraja Mallika asks.
The group is upset over several media reports that incorrectly portrayed their initiative as an â€śexclusive school for transgenders,â€ť giving the impression that the transgender community desires exclusive educational institutions.
â€śI am the last person who would say that we need separate schools. What we need is support and understanding about our community in the society. The only thing that will help in doing so, is looking beyond gender binaries and incorporating the true definition of a transgender person in the school curriculum,â€ť she said.
The group hopes to begin the programme in a few weeks, funded entirely through donations collected through public appeals.