Both Pakistan and India are now offering college tuition-free education for transgender people. While many of us in the US celebrate new inclusion in high-end women’s schools, both Pakistan and India have taken this very real step towards making a university degree a reality for their country’s most marginalized communities.
April 2017 the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) in Tamil Nadu, India, fully waived the fee for those from the community joining courses offered by 27 departments in the university and its 10 constituent colleges from this academic year onwards.
The university officials claimed that it was perhaps the first university in the country to offer such an attractive incentive to encourage the transgenders to go in for higher education, even up to a doctorate. In fact, the syndicate members made a fervent appeal to the management of affiliated colleges – both aided and unaided institutions – to extend fee waiver to the transgender community.
The MSU Fee Waiver PDF includes both distance and regular mode education.
“After getting neglected by the society and even by their parents, the transgenders are forced to beg on the streets. If we can create a favorable condition for acquiring better educational qualifications, it will enable them to occupy enviable positions in government or private institutions, and hence, the MSU has taken an initiative in this direction,” said vice-chancellor K. Baskar.
Then yesterday we learned that a leading university in Islamabad, Pakistan has begun offering free education for the transgender community, in a bid to promote inclusion and opportunity for the marginalized group.
“Our university education system is based on distance learning, so they can get the education without coming to classrooms, and avoid possible taboos attached to them,” Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, vice chancellor of the Islamabad-based Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), told Arab News.
Through this free education program, the AIOU will try to “return their self-respect and dignity.”
Forum for Dignity Initiatives (FDI), a Pakistani NGO working for the rights of gender and sexual minorities, lauded the decision.
“This is a positive, welcome and much-needed step by the AIOU,” Uzma Yaqoob, founder and executive director of FDI, told Arab News, adding that the transgender community was never given such an opportunity before in Pakistan.
“The transgender community has a great desire to acquire and complete their education. I’m sure they’ll make use of this offer.”