– Dipta Joshi
In what is a first of its kind educational initiative to empower transgender people, a community school – Kinnar Vidhyalaya, has been set up in suburban Vasai – a two-hour drive from Mumbai. The school inaugurated (June 25) already has 25 students of varying ages from 5 years to 50 who have signed up for its classes.
The school is the brainchild of Mehandi Ali a transgender with a passion for education who unfortunately was denied admission due to her sexual orientation. Speaking to the media Mehendi said transgenders continue to face discrimination despite being recognised as the third gender by the Supreme Court in 2014. “The bullying and discrimination faced at school results in people from the third gender dropping out of school. Here they will be able to focus on learning without being laughed at. There are many educated members in the transgender community who aren’t getting jobs in private firms. I would like to encourage corporates to be open to hiring transgender people,” adds Ali.
Mehendi had been planning a school for the third gender since the past four years. After considerable delay, the project was finally greenlighted when he received the support of the Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation, Shree Mahashakti Charitable Trust (SMCT) and several other government officials. The current land for the school has been provided by SMCT.
“We believe education is the key to an equitable society. While we are working on creating a suitable curriculum etc. upto grade V, we are going to keep it flexible to ensure sustained interest. Later we want to extend classes till matriculation so that the students can get a basic degree for themselves. Though we will hire more teachers as and when needed, our focus is on getting students to interact with our guest lecturers – experts from various fields, who can motivate our students to function successfully in real world situations. In terms of infrastructure, we hope to gather enough momentum in the project to build a residential hostel at a later date,” says Vishal Bhagat, general secretary, SMCT.
While predominantly a school for transgenders, the school is also open to admitting students from economically weaker sections (EWS), especially those from its surrounding disadvantageous neighbourhood. Aiming to make its students self-reliant, the school will offer vocational guidance and skill development workshops in handicrafts, waste management, beauty and interior decoration courses among other subjects.
While this is the first of its kind school in Maharashtra, there have been attempts to set up educational institutes for transgenders in other states. In 2016, a residential school for transgenders – ‘Sahaj International’ was started in Thrikkakara, Kochi with much fanfare. However, the school whose students were to follow the National Open School system failed to raise interest leading to the building later being converted into a hostel for transgender employees of government institutions. Similarly, the attempt to build the first university for transgenders in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district by the Akhil Bhartiya Kinnar Shiksha Seva Trust in 2019 is still awaiting approval.Posted in National, News