Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) on Friday announced free enrollment and education for transgenders for the upcoming academic session. The university had first decided to waive off fees for transgenders last year in July and given the overwhelming response by the transgender community, the university has further decided to extend the facility for transgenders for this academic session.
IGNOU Vice Chancellor Ravindra Kumar told Catch –
“Almost 3,000 transgender people from Delhi alone enrolled across various courses in IGNOU. And almost 9,000-10,000 transgender from across the country enrolled for our various distance learning programmes. Transgender students have enrolled even in our PhD courses which is a matter of great pride to us.”
The transgender community enrolling in various academic programmes of IGNOU in January 2018 session will now be allotted IGNOU Study Centre at Avadh Girls’ PG College, Lucknow.
The IGNOU Study Centre has been recently activated at this college to cater to women students of the city and adjoining area. Short-term professional programmes have also been activated for transgender students, so that they may also enroll in these programmes to enhance their knowledge and employability.
“We were having a lot of interaction with transgenders in our study centres across the country in the past. Last year during the process of reviewing our admission policy, we noted that many categories were getting fee exemptions. We realised that when members of the transgender community got any sort of education, they were able to take pride in their identity and in turn work towards the upliftment of the community as a whole. It was then that we decided that the transgender community did deserve to have fees exemption for enrollment for all courses in IGNOU as many of them do not even have the resources of paying the minimum fees of Rs 3,000 per year,” the IGNOU V-C said.
“Our primary target is that transgenders must get a respectable identity in the society and this move is giving them pride in openly calling themselves transgenders,” Kumar added.
Before July last year, IGNOU had just about 20 transgender students enrolled in the varsity, according to the V-C.
IGNOU had introduced the 'other' gender category in their admission process in 2012 – before transgenders were officially recognised as the third gender by the Supreme Court in 2014 in a landmark decision.
The V-C also told Catch that the decision to waive off fees completely was a university decision.
“The Central government did not have anything to do with this decision. The university had been wanting to take some welfare measures for transgenders, and hence the plan was executed by the university,” Kumar said.
Transgender rights activist Kalki Subramaniam feels the move is extremely encouraging for the community.
“I think it is a great initiative taken by the university. Many transgenders have not been able to continue education because of the fee factor. Many will be very interested in pursuing higher education,” Subramaniam told Catch.
However, Subramaniam feels that unless the government also takes up the issue of employability of transgenders, initiatives like this will not have any benefit.
“As important as education is, livelihood for transgenders is an issue that needs to be given some serious focus. Such measures by educational institutions like IGNOU are very encouraging, but the civil society and the government needs to think about how this education will benefit transgenders in terms of jobs and sustaining their livelihood. Only then will initiatives like this be a success,” Subramaniam explained.