Sanju*, 34, is a proud 10th grader now. Sanju dropped out of school on discovering the woman within and slowly started transforming to one physically too. Sanju could hardly withstand the humiliations meted out by teachers and friends. On attaining puberty, Sanju was excommunicated from family for being a transperson and soon she joined fellow transgenders and led an isolated life suppressing the ambition of becoming a teacher. Now, after enrolling for Kerala State Literacy Mission's Samanwaya transgender literacy programme, Sanju is enthusiastically chasing her dreams of graduating to higher grades each year. From this month, she will also be financially independent and start commuting to the literacy classes from a public shelter home!
In a path-breaking move, Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) is launching an exclusive literacy aid programme for transgenders by which a monthly scholarship of up to Rs. 1,250 and a shelter home in each district are provided.
An extension of KSLMA's ambitious project 'Samanwaya', which focuses on the free continuing education of gender minorities in Kerala, the new programme will provide the students of Samanwaya's fourth-grade equivalence program with a scholarship of Rs 1,000 and those enrolled for higher secondary equivalence programme Rs 1,250. The authority is also set to open four district level shelter homes initially, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts.
State minister for social welfare department KK Shailaja will inaugurate the first phase of state-level scholarship distribution on June 28 at a function at Thaikkad, Thiruvananthapuram.
Samanwaya being India's India's first-ever comprehensive literacy, shelter programme for transgenders, bases itself on the statistics of KSLMA's 2016 analytical survey called 'Survey 918' which gathered significant data regarding the low literacy/educational rate and high learning curve among the transgender community in Kerala. At present, 148 transgender students are pursuing continuing education under Samanwaya programme, which was launched in November 2016.
Commenting on the new scholarship and shelter programme, KSLMA director Dr. PS Sreekala said that Kerala is spearheading a revolution in the educational realm in India. “The new programme does not only aim at raising the literacy levels among transgenders but also to offer them a level of social acceptance, support and security which will enable them to achieve higher living standards and goals,” she told Onmanorama.
Samanwaya's fourth-grade equivalence plan has a duration of six months; seventh grade, eight months; 10th grade 10 months and higher secondary education, two years. Shelter homes are provided in districts where at least 10 transgender students are enrolled for the literacy course. Otherwise, the students will be incorporated in the classes in the nearest district with a literacy programme and offered scholarship and shelter.
Sreekala added that the state literacy mission will soon extend its equivalence education programme to the whole population of transgenders who have expressed their education dreams in the survey.
Kollam district has the highest number of transgenders enrolled for the Samanwaya literacy programme, 20 students for class-10 grade equivalence course and 10 for higher secondary equivalence programme. Thiruvananthapuram has over 20 students, Pathanamthitta, 25 and Alappuzha, 10. One student from a batch acts as the coordinator of Samanwaya in each district.
Samanwaya has also released a specialised manual for the 45 trainers in its transgender literacy programme. The handbook prescribes the conduct of teachers in classrooms, especially by accepting the physical, emotional and behavioural distinctions of the students in a respectable and pleasant manner. It also restricts them from passing prejudicial, comparative and sarcastic comments on the students.
“Transpersons are worth an equal social status a man or a woman enjoys in our society. We intend to incorporate in our literacy programme those who lost an opportunity to pursue mainstream education because of social stigma. So the trainers who handle them need to be sensitised upon the topics like gender, sexuality, social acceptance and minority rights. This is the reason why we issued a specialised handbook for Samanwaya trainers,” Sreekala said.
KSLMA joined hands with Kerala state social welfare department to extend counselling sessions to the transgenders enrolled for the programme. Emotional support to survive existing social stigmas and achieve their life goals is also extended.
The inauguration session will commence at PWD rest house, Thaikkad, by 11 am on Thursady. It will be attended by VS Shivakumar, MLA; KSLMA directorSreekala and several other dignitaries.
* Name changed to protect identity.