Pakistan has opened its first government-funded school for trans students run by trans teachers.
The school opened earlier this month in the Pakistani city of Multan in the Punjab region. According to the Associated Press, the school welcomed 18 students to the school on the first day of classes, and more are expected to enrol at a later date.
The curriculum was developed for grades 1 to 12 with teachers from within the trans community taking the helm, according to the South China Morning Post. The school also provides afternoon classes and vocational training.
Murad Raas, the provincial minister of Punjab for School Education, shared photos from the school’s opening day on Twitter. He wrote that the government has “provided them [students] with everything that is required for schooling”.
The Government of Pakistan also welcomed the opening of the landmark school in Multan. It wrote on Twitter: “This will not just education the transgender people but will increase livelihood and business opportunities for them as well.”
Pakistani news network Geo News reported the institution is part of a government programme called TransEducation.
The Associated Press reported that trans people are “considered outcasts” by many communities in Pakistan, especially in the country’s “conservative areas”. The outlet added that trans people are “often sexually abused, assaulted and even murdered”, and many avoid enrolling in educational institutions to “avoid discrimination”.
Ayesha Mughal, a trans advocate, told the Associated Press that the community is “grateful” to the government for opening the school and “for providing free education to our community”. Mughal also tweeted about the momentous occasion.
“Today I am so happy, proud and emotional at the same time,” Mughal wrote.
Alisha Sherazi, a teacher at the school, told Geo News the institution’s opening is a “huge day” for the community as well as a “huge day in Pakistan’s history”. Another teacher said the school’s educators can “understand” the students “as we are from their community”.
“We can guide and teach them better compared to people from the general population,” the teacher told Geo News.
Baby Doll, a student enrolled at the school, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that she feels “really comfortable” in the school because she’s surrounded by “people from our community”.
“Boys used to tease us and misbehave,” Baby Doll explained. “They never recognised that we were their classmates.”
She continued: “Even the behaviour of our teachers and other staff in the school was quite upsetting.
“We realised after coming to this school that a good decision has been made for us.”
Pakistani government officials have vowed to crack down on widespread transphobic violence in the country.
Last year, Ejaz Alam Augustine Talking, the minister for human rights and minority affairs in Punjab, said the local government would introduce a historic “bill of protection” to defend the community.
He said the state would ensure the “protection of the transgender community” and asked the community to nominate representatives for discussions.
“The government is taking all possible steps for a peaceful environment across the province,” he added.