The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Wednesday announced details of a virtual university for Africa, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised such an institution at a summit in Addis Ababa.
The proposal to establish the Indo-Africa Virtual University (IAVU) was initiated by the ministry of external affairs and IGNOU was mandated with formulating a proposal in consultation with the ministry of human resource development.
"The mission of IAVU is to create conditions that ensure special priority to furthering Indo-African relations by establishing an educational link," said IGNOU Vice Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai.
IAVU, he explained, will ensure Africa-oriented educational programmes were developed effectively in focus areas and fields such as health sciences, vocational education, food and nutritional security, and gender empowerment.
"IAVU will also augment the overall participation of African nations in the global educational development process and strengthen inter-regional cooperation between African member nations and India," Pillai told IANS.
The headquarters of the virtual university is proposed in Ethipia or Kenya. The initial cost is estimated at Rs.150 crore ($3.5 million), with an annual cost or Rs.100 crore.
It could take between six months and a year to implement.
IGNOU authorities said Africa had burgeoning numbers of youth, some seven-10 million of whom knock on the doors of the labour market every year, which is a huge opportunity. Yet, of today's unemployed in the region, 60 per cent are youth.
"Good quality, relevant education beyond the primary stage needs to turn out the types of skilled graduates and professionals that Africa so urgently needs. Only 5 per cent of its relevant age group has access to university education compared to the world average of 25 per cent," Pillai said.
After the mandate from the Prime Minister, IGNOU has proposed within a period of one year, a plan of action at a continental level and an appropriate follow-up mechanism to implement the virtual university.
"Following the success of the Pan-African E-Network Project, we propose to take the next step and establish an India-Africa Virtual University," the prime minister had said at the India-Africa Forum Summit in the Ethiopian capital.
"This will help meet some of the demand in Africa for higher studies in Indian institutions. We further propose 10,000 new scholarships under this proposed university will be available for African students after its establishment," he added.
The virtual university will formulate academic programmes, promote collaborations for distance education, coordinate special action plans and strengthen the consultation mechanisms on education between India and African nations.
Popularly called the 'People's University', IGNOU currently offers over 350 programmes of study through more than 3,500 courses to a cumulative student strength of over three million.
Programmes offered by the IGNOU - the world's largest university - are under various levels, including doctorates, master's and bachelor's degrees, post-graduate and under-graduate diplomas as also certificates.
In Africa, IGNOU already has partnerships with several countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Cote d'Ivore, Eritrea, Egypt, Mauritius, Rwanda, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Benin and Madagascar.