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July 6, 2021

First-ever in Pakistan: Punjab launches education project for transgenders

ISLAMABAD: For the first time ever in Pakistan, the government of Punjab has initiated a ‘Transeducation’ pilot project for imparting education to the transgender community, and the project is expected to be launched on July 7.

The Education Department, south Punjab, Government of the Punjab, has decided to attend to this hitherto important yet ignored issue. Transeducation is being launched in Multan, whereby transgenders would be given formal education in evening classes at public sector schools by resorting to the Accelerated Learning Programme to compensate for the lost schooling in the first phase, and to formal schooling in the second. And gradually transgenders would be shifted to regular and age-appropriates classes/ schools.

Efforts are being put in place as transgenders are one of the most marginalised segments of society in Pakistan. They are shunned by their own families and are left with no loved-ones from the day they are born. They have to face physical, sexual and psychological exploitation throughout their lives. Doors of formal education and consequently decent livelihood, therefore, remain shut on them.

The pilot project is expected to be taken up in whole Punjab once successfully executed in Multan. Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas, while talking to The News, said: “We will extend the project to Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, and with the passage of time, to entire Punjab.” He said the concept of degrading the transgender community must come to an end and steps should be taken to provide them with a healthy, respectable environment.

Secretary Education South Punjab Ehtisham Anwar told The News the programme would be divided in three groups, i.e. primary, secondary, and higher secondary. Depending on the capacity and performance of students, more than one classes would be taught in a given year. In addition, vocational skills would also be imparted to make them financially independent. Tailoring, teaching, dress designing, make-up/ beauty parlour services, cooking and other vocations have been short-listed for the purpose, added the official.

For successful execution of the project, a geographical mapping was undertaken and three main pockets of habitation of transgenders were identified in Multan. The pilot project is being launched in Government Girls Comprehensive Higher Secondary School, Gulgasht Colony, Multan, close to one of the main pockets, along the Bosan Road, said the official. He said that with the passage of time, the authorities would involve all government schools in Punjab to contribute to the cause and eliminate the dilemma of transgenders alienation. After the successful launch and execution of the pilot project, the Education Department, South Punjab, intended to replicate it in rest of 10 districts of south Punjab the next year, added Ehtisham Anwar.

According to the project documents, classes would be held at 4pm and beyond after the closure of normal schools. Books, stationery items, uniform and shoes would be provided free of cost.

A special uniform has been designed for the transgenders. Similarly, uni-gender shoes have been selected as part of the uniform for the comfort of transgender community. Also, free pick and drop service would be arranged for the students, with the help of Special Education Department, Government of the Punjab.

The educated persons among the transgenders are being considered to be used as faculty in these classes in order to create earning opportunities for them and present them as role models to the transgender students. Five such persons have already been selected – one of them having an MPhil degree whereas another is BS Psychology.

The News contacted Miss Alisha Sherazi, who holds an MPhil degree in Education Management Planning from Bahauddin Zakariya University, and represents the transgender community to the programme as a consultant. She said, “We hope that the project will be extended across country so that our community can also contribute to progress of the nation.” She said that through the initiative, the transgenders would also be able to get good jobs and respect in society.

The transgender community has already given protection in the Constitution of Pakistan. Section 8 of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 says that “there shall be no discrimination against transgender persons in acquiring admission to any educational institutions. The government shall take steps to provide free and compulsory education to transgender persons, as guaranteed under Article 25A of the Constitution.”