SNDT university opens distance learning programmes for transgenders
Three students from third gender enrol for courses at Juhu campus.
While applying for a Masters of Commerce course at the University of Mumbai in 2008-09, Sonalee Chaukekar, a programme manager at Kinnar Maa Ek Samajik Sanstha, a group representing the transgender community, marked the gender column in the admission form as female.
This year, when she registers for the post-graduate diploma in Human Resource Management (HRM) at SNDT Women’s University’s distance learning programme, she will have the option of ticking the ‘others’ box.
Chandrakant Puri, director, Centre for Distance Education, SNDT Women’s University, said only transwomen (male to female) will be eligible for the courses.
“There will be no separate concession for them once they are enrolled in the course. SNDT is the first women’s university in South-East Asia to open its doors to transgender students,” Puri said.
Two other transgender students, Priya Patil and Sanjana Patil, who do not have documents to certify earlier academic qualifications, have been registered by the university to appear for an entrance examination in December.
If they clear it, they will be eligible for admission to Bachelor of Arts (BA) and B.Com courses under the distance learning programme.
For Priya, enrolling for a BA course at the university would be a step closer to her dream of appearing for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination.
“In 2001, I had to quit my studies when I was in Class 11. I did a diploma course in social work, but to appear for UPSC examination one needs to be a graduate,” said Priya.
Hindustan Times had reported in April that the university has decided to admit transgender candidates in distance learning course from this academic year. The University of Mumbai’s Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL) also has students who identify as transgender.
SNDT University has not decided on admitting transgender students to courses conducted in the campuses.
“The transgender students would be invited to the campus where they will get help for their studies. We will build separate toilets for them,” said Puri.
The degree aspirants will have to clear four papers in the entrance test because they do not have Class 10 or Class 12 passing certificates. Earlier, the entrance examination was conducted for women above 18 years who had no proof of educational qualification.
“Over the past 40 years, there have been a lot of girls who have appeared for this entrance examination. So, we thought we should give transgender a chance in distance education,” said Puri.
Members of the SNDT staff, including Puri, are helping some of the students by paying for the entrance examination.
Chaukekar is yet to get funding for the course fee of Rs15,000.
“I work for a social organisation, so a course in HRM would help me professionally,” said Chaukekar.