Malaysia's first school for pregnant teenagers welcomed its inaugural batch of students Monday, defying criticism of the facility which is aimed at curbing an epidemic of "baby dumping".

Conservative commentators in Muslim-majority Malaysia have complained that Sekolah Harapan or "School of Hope", which opened Friday, will only encourage premarital sex.

But state officials defended the school as a realistic way of tackling the rising number of abandoned infants who have been dumped, often dead or dying, on rubbish tips and in the streets.

Five girls aged between 16 and 17 were enrolled at the school Monday, said school chairman Rahaman Karim, expressing confidence that the other 35 available spots would be filled as enquiries were continuing to come in.

"The parents of these five students read about the school before it opened, They took their daughter to visit the school over the weekend and register them."

"I met the five students today and they appeared to be coping very well," said the chairman, who opened the school's doors Friday without a single student enrolled.

Rahaman said the five girls, four Malay Muslims and one ethnic Chinese, were all unmarried and would be staying at the hostel next to the school, which is located on a scenic hilltop outside the tourist town of Malacca.

They will be taught by an all-female staff who will offer normal classes as well as counselling and skill training to the girls.

They can remain in the school until after their delivery and confinement period, when they have to return to their normal schools.

Giving birth out of wedlock still carries a strong social stigma in Malaysia, a multicultural society including Muslim Malays as well as ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.