KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian state authorities will soon open a school exclusively for pregnant teenagers to help them overcome the stigma of having children without being married, an official said Wednesday.
The school will be able to accept about 30 students starting Sept. 16, making the southern state of Malacca the first in this Muslim-majority country to have such an institution, said school chairman Abdul Rahman Abdul Karim.
The plan comes after Malaysian officials have voiced increasing concerns about teenagers who inadvertently become pregnant and drop out of school. Some young mothers have abandon their babies in garbage dumps, bushes or public toilets.
The Islamic affairs department in Malacca will run the school and offer classes in math, science, English and other subjects alongside religious counseling for the girls, Abdul Rahman said. They can also stay in a hostel next to the school.
"We want to give them a second chance to rebuild their future," Abdul Rahman said. "After they deliver their babies, the girls can go back to their ordinary schools."
Sex out of wedlock remains a taboo for many Muslims in Malaysia, where more than 50 babies have been found abandoned so far this year. Many of them died.
Officials in Malacca have recorded at least 170 babies born out of wedlock this year. More than 70 were delivered by teenage girls.
Malacca's chief minister recently encouraged Muslim teenagers to get married if they cannot resist having sex and promised to allocate state funds to help them start a family.