Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has announced funding for public universities and colleges to establish "unity clubs" to "bridge the growing racial gap between students".
The main racial groups - Bumiputras (Malays and indigenous tribes) 63 per cent, Chinese 29 per cent and Indians 8 per cent - do not mix much and, according to Dr Mahathir, this phenomenon is mirrored in the country's higher education institutions.
The prime minister is worried that "race relations are deteriorating among students".
According to Hassan Said, director of the department of higher education, other ethnic groups do not offer to help when one ethnic community is facing a problem. "Shared values are becoming less important to students," he said.
In 1999, the government instructed all universities to introduce room sharing between different racial group members as a means of fostering racial integration. But the universities "had not made any positive efforts in That direction", Dr Mahathir said.
The clubs will be supervised by the universities' student affairs division and progress will be monitored by the ministry of education. Dr Hassan said that universities had already been instructed to approve only new clubs in which all races were well represented.
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