Malay/Muslim MPs ask about families, education

SINGAPORE - Six Malay/Muslim MPs yesterday sought updates on the community's efforts to uplift itself and strengthen its families, with some concerned about how it can cope with issues such as high divorce rates and debt.

They wanted to know how steps taken by community groups to help different layers of society, from giving pre-schoolers a headstart to helping adults upgrade their skills, were faring.

They also had questions about the curricula of kindergartens in mosques, and the disbursement of zakat, or tithe, contributions.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon GRC) asked for updates on education and development programmes for young people.

"The community has a large youth base, and they are an asset to us," he said. "If developed well, these youths present opportunities for us to develop a community of excellence for future generations."

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked how self-help group Mendaki planned to get more involved in early childhood education, while Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) wanted to know if its training arm, Mendaki Sense, could help adults seeking to upgrade their skills build up their training portfolio.

Dr Fatimah also asked about the "relatively high" divorce rates in the Malay/Muslim community, and programmes to strengthen families. Figures show that 1,662 Muslim couples split up in 2013.

The financial health of the community was raised by Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who spoke about how households can be taught to better manage finances.

He said: "Good financial planning remains a key to maintaining strong and resilient families. Debts open doors to social problems and vices."

Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC) asked about zakat spending, and where leftover funds go towards.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim will respond to these queries when the debate continues today.

This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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