Published: 20th April 2017
Transgenders from anywhere in the world will find a place to study at Tirunelveli's MSU: VC K Baskar talks about the two transgenders who prompted this revolution
The varsity will offer up to 830 seats for transgenders across all their courses and there will be a fee waiver for them. The funds will come from a corpus that has been set up by the VC
In a revolutionary move, the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli has waived fees for transgender students for all its courses and the same applies to the 73 colleges affiliated to it. The university is the first in the country to implement such a scheme for the transgender community, hopefully setting a precedent to the rest of the country too.
The man behind it all is the University's Vice Chancellor Dr K Baskar, who had a change of heart of heart and mind after an event he attended. He spoke with Edexlive on what propelled him to bring about this scheme and what his hopes are for the betterment of the transgender community, especially in South India.
What was the motivation behind this never-before-taken decision?
I attended an awareness programme some time ago organised by transgender groups in Tirunelveli. There I met two transgender women who were hosting the show - Sudha and Bharati Kannamma and at one point their parents were invited on the stage to speak about their children. Bharati Kannamma's mother said she was glad to have given birth to a transgender and would not have it any other way. It was the same with Sudha's sister who spoke about how immensely proud she was. Both of them were also educated, that is when in struck me that only if transgenders are provided with an education would they not continue to beg on the streets or be forced into prostitution. I've read that 25 percent of transgenders have studied till the 12th and are then ostracised and thrown into the streets. I firmly believe an education can change a person's life, so that's what pushed me to do this.
What are your expectations now since the announcement has been made? Do you already have transgender students at the university?
We don't have any students at the moment but many have expressed their desire to join different courses, from distance education to B.Ed. I hope other universities and colleges also consider following suit but till that happens I want to invite students from all parts of the country and even outside the country to come and study at our university. We might have to revise our schemes a bit to fit in other candidates but we will try our best to accommodate anyone who wishes to study and doesn't have the means just because they are transgender. Even if many from the community don't get a chance to read about this new decision, I hope that people who are aware will make others aware too.
We might have to revise our schemes a bit to fit in other candidates but we will try our best to accommodate anyone who wishes to study and doesn't have the means just because they are transgender
Dr K Bhaskar, Vice-Chancellor, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University
Tell us what went into formalising the decision. Did the faculty and syndicate agree?
Since money is the one thing that stands between the transgender community and their education, I decided a fee waiver would be ideal. When I pitched the idea to my faculty, they were extremely happy and we were able to collect Rs 5 lakh for the transgender endowment fund, we're hoping to reach Rs 50 lakh soon to increase the scholarships. The idea was pitched to the syndicate too, who also approved it. We're hoping to ensure that the students will have Rs 3000 per month for their studies.
This will include all the affiliated colleges as well?
Yes, all the 73 affiliated colleges, 10 constituent colleges and all the 27 departments. Every year, we will have 830 seats open to transgender students, of course this also depends on our funds. But before the announcement was made and even in the last few days, a lot of people have come forward to contribute because people realise the impact of this move.
Where changes bloom: Manonmaniam Sundaranar University
Have you received any backlash to the decision?
So far there have been no negative reactions. Compared to five years ago, things have changed so much now, people have progressed but of course there are instances where the transgender community continues to be ostracised. For example, when a person commits a crime, it is reported normally but if a transgender person commits a crime, then the fact that they are a transgender is stressed and the whole community is shamed. Even at an awareness event recently, we discussed how it was important to sensitise children from a young age. Our curriculum should teach students to respect everyone, that way our society will improve.