Bangladesh has just opened its first religious school for transgender people in Dhaka. More than 150 students are now enrolled at the privately-funded seminary where they will study Islamic and vocational subjects all free of charge with classes set to begin on Saturday.

School officials along with local councillors and hijra community leaders attended the opening day of the Dawatul Koran Third Sex Madrassa. The seminary is located near Lohar bridge in the Kamrangirchar area of Dhaka.

The madrassa's funding comes from a foundation that was set up with money that was left behind by Ahmad Ferdous Bari Chowdhury. He was a businessman who openly voiced his desire to educate the hijra community. This advocacy stems from the fact that there are no schools in Bangladesh that cater exclusively to transgender people. Its aim is to accept a person of any age from the hijra community to enroll and give them a chance to study so they can acquire a variety of professions after graduating.

The government cited there are about 10,000 hijras or more commonly known in South Asia as transgenders. Some say the numbers even go up to 50,000. Many of these transgenders transition from male to female and publicly identify as a third gender as the country has already officially recognised this. They enjoy the right to vote and are allowed to stand for election. However, many conservatives still make it difficult for them to access jobs and proper education. This forces them to migrate and support themselves providing entertainment at parties and events while some end up soliciting for sex work.

In an interview by the BBC Bengali service with the madrassa's education and training secretary, Mohammad Abdul Aziz Hussaini said, "Whether or not someone is of the third sex is identified at a fairly mature age. That's why we don't set any age limit. Anyone can be admitted here as soon as a transgender person is identified, no matter what age they are."

Hussaini said hijras in Bangladesh still suffer from neglect in the family and society.

"If a transgender child is born in a family, the parents often do not want to accept them. We want them not to be a burden to society. We decided to set up this madrassa... so that they can learn the Koran and work with dignity."

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Members of a Koranic school for transgenders in Yogyakarta pray while observing Ramadan Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images