Sahaj International Residential School, which will be opened in Kochi from 30 December, 2016, is one of a kind in the country. The school aims to provide inclusive education to transgender dropouts who had to quit their academic education at the basic level due to society’s approach towards them. However, times have changed and various reforms and policies have also been formulated for transgenders in country, which are aimed at their well-being and upliftment.
The contribution of many transgender activists like Vijayaraja Mallika deserves a mention because she is one among the strong pillars who conceived this idea and turned it into a reality. The school, which will initially accommodate 10 transgender dropouts from different transgender communities comprising male to female, female to male, trans-section, tribal, migrant and disabled, will follow the National Open School curriculum and will also include skill development programmes. The school will conduct classes and hold examinations equivalent to classes 10 and 12.
Several teachers and social workers have volunteered to take the classes.
Making it clear that the school is for transgender dropouts and not for transgender children as most of the media houses are reporting, Mallika said, “About 57 per cent of the transgender community in Kerala consist of those who have dropped out from basic education and this is the reason why they cannot work in places as others do, earn a living, and spend a peaceful life. Our aim, therefore, is to find 10 transgenders from this number who are willing to study and have a dream to achieve and to provide them with necessary education.”
She added that six candidates have so far approached them and rest of the four seats are yet to be filled, which they hopefully wish would not be left vacant. The school will be led by six transgender people working with the TransIndia Foundation.
Commenting on what made her put forward such an idea in Kerala and not in other places where the school would have received more admissions, Mallika said, “Kerala has a Transgender Policy, which is yet to be implemented in a full-fledged manner. Starting such an initiative in God’s Own Country, the same god who created male, female and we transgender, was a challenge. But it’s my pleasure to take up this challenge as a professional social worker. I wish to bring all transgender dropouts to the mainstream and reintegrate them to families and society.”
The official announcement of the school was made at a press conference at Ernakulam by Mallika and other transgender activists Maya Menon and Faisal C.K. The inauguration will be done by popular transgender rights activist and artist Kalki Subramaniam. Mallika says that it is a dream come true for her as a lot of hard work had gone into the entire process, of which finding an appropriate space was the biggest problem.
Despite being rejected by many organisations, the school was finally given the approval to function in a space rented out by a Christian organisation. The initial funding for the school has been done by some sponsors. However, the founders are aiming to pool in government funding for the functioning of the school.
Main photograph by R. Barraz D’ Luca via Flickr.