Manama: A conservative lawmaker in Bahrain has called for setting up a separate college for girls within the University of Bahrain.
MP Ali Zayed, representing Al Asala Society, the expression of Salafism in the country, attributed the move to demands from a large segment of the society.
"I am aware that such a proposal had been submitted in the past," the lawmaker said. "However, there is a segment in the society which insists on it as they do not feel at ease with mixed education. The state has to respect their feelings," he said.
Bahrain could draw on the "successful examples" of segregated education in other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the MP said.
"The college will offer better opportunities to those who do not like co-ed institutions, especially among young women who do not have the required funds to join private colleges," he said.
The lawmaker said that the gender segregation move would require only setting aside buildings within the University, and not necessarily building new ones.
"There are studies that prove that gender segregation boosted learning capabilities by making students focus on their education and enhance their aptitudes," he said.
According to Al Asala, the political wing of the Islamic Education Society, four lawmakers have already voiced support to the motion. However, it is unlikely to pass in the lower chamber dominated by independent MPs.
Bahrain's parliament had rejected motions filed by conservative lawmakers, mainly in 2004 by Jassem Al Saeedi, to set up gender-based colleges. The education ministry argued that it did not have enough financial resources to build new colleges to reinforce an education segregation move.
Government elementary, intermediate and high schools in Bahrain are gender-segregated, but colleges are mixed and cater to young men and women together.
The first formal school for girls in Bahrain was opened in 1928.