IGNOU announces virtual university in Africa

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New Delhi, May 25: The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) on Wednesday announced the details of the 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 (IKAVU) was initiated by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the IGNOU was entrusted with the formulation of the proposal.

Following the suggestions from the MEA and MHRD, and extending the successfully executed Pan-African E-learning Network of IGNOU, the final proposal was approved by the MEA.

“The mission of an India-Africa Virtual University 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.

The virtual university, he explained, will ensure Africa-oriented educational programmes are developed effectively in focus areas and fields such as health sciences, vocational education, food and nutritional security, and gender empowerment.

“The India-Africa Virtual University 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 said.

The headquarters of the virtual university is proposed in Ethipia or Kenya and initial cost is estimated at Rs.150 crore (USD 3.5 million), with an annual cost or Rs.100 crore. It could take between six months to a year to implement.

IGNOU authorities said, Africa has burgeoning numbers of youth, some seven-ten 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 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.

As part of its objectives, 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.

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, Jamaica, Benin and Madagascar.

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