New Delhi: 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
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 percent 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 percent of its relevant age group
has access to university education compared to the world average
of 25 percent," 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
"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
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