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A new school in India offers free education to transgender students

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jul 07, 2021 10:50 pm

A school in Maharashtra, India opened recently to provide free education to its transgender community.

Some transgender persons in India are often marginalized, socially excluded and face discrimination not just in finding jobs and public places but also in health and education.

Because of this, the non-government organization Shri Mahashakti Charitable Trust opened the school Kinnar Vidyalaya in the city of Vasai. The NGO built the school with the aim to empower and provide more opportunities to the transgender community.

Twenty-five adults and a few children have been admitted to the school so far, according to Hindustan Times.

Kinnar Vidyalaya in Vasai offers vocational guidance and skills development workshops to transgender students. Photo from Mid-day

The NGO started the school after the transgender community in Vasai expressed that they had little to no access to education and only a few were willing to teach them.

This is still widely happening in India, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that recognize transgender people as a “third gender” and therefore should be “provided equal opportunity to grow.”

The school also has a transgender teaching staff, including 26-year-old Paras Thakur. Speaking with Mid-day, Thakur said she had to drop out of college even if she was a top student after facing harassment on a daily basis.

“I even tried to conceal my identity but people judge on the basis of your body language. I could not use the boys’ toilet during recess,” Thakur told the newspaper.

After dropping out in school, Thakur wanted to pursue a flight attendant and modeling career. She was turned down for both jobs. She was able to secure a job as a salesperson at a shopping mall but was asked to “dress as a man” to keep her job. She did for six months and eventually quit, and soon after, she fell into depression.

Twenty-five students are currently enrolled at Kinnar Vidyalaya. Photo from ANI

Now, Thakur earns a living as a member of a dance group who performs at events. She is also among the teachers of the school who are helping students from poor families to take a shot at finishing their education.

The school will also offer vocational guidance and skills development workshops in handicrafts, waste management, beauty and interior decoration, according to Mid-day.

Kinnar Vidyalayahas a transgender teaching staff. Photo from ANI

Shri Mahashakti Charitable Trust founder and chairperson Rekha Tripathi strongly believes that everyone should have equal access to education, regardless of their gender.

"A few years back, a transgender person explained to me that several people from this community were facing problems in getting jobs as they did not have access to even basic education. Social stigma paired with poor economic conditions have contributed to this issue," Tripathi told ANI.

The founding of Kinnar Vidyalaya in Vanasi is a big win for the transgender community in the city, which followed the footsteps of the very first school dedicated to transgender students in Kerala state.

The school, Sahaj International, is located in the city of Kochi in Kerala, which is the first state in India that adopted a policy against discrimination of transgender people. The state also offers free gender reassignment surgery at government hospitals.