The Cote d'Ivoire-based Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is hoping India will help develop higher education across the continent through a strategic partnership to leverage its experience in the sector.
Towards this end, ADEA Executive Secretary Oley Dibba-Wadda has met the Indian Ambassador in Cote d'Ivoire A. Ravindra, the association's Senior Communications Officer, Stefano De Cupis, has said.
"The Executive Secretary also used the opportunity to invite India to participate in the ADEA's flagship event, the 2017 Triennale, which will be held in Marrakesh, Morocco, from March 15 to 17," De Cupis said in an email exchange.
ADEA is a forum for policy dialogue established in 1988 at the World Bank's insistence and has evolved into a pan-African institution based within the African Development Bank. It provides the framework for better coordination among development agencies and African ministries of education and training, as well as their external technical funding partners.
It has developed into a network of policymakers, educators and researchers and, based on its capacity to foster policy dialogue and pool ideas, experience, lessons learned and knowledge, a catalyst for educational reform. It is recognised today as being a major actor in the processes of dialogue, sharing and learning for qualitative change in education aimed at promoting Africa's development.
De Cupis said the Triennale is being hosted by Morocco through its Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Professional Training and has the theme "Revitalising Education Towards the 2030 Global Agenda and Africa's Agenda 2063".
This is not the first time that African agencies have tried to involve India in the development of higher education on the continent. Last June, a joint report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Africa Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) urged African countries to learn from India's approach to guarantee access to higher education to those from poorer homes.
"You don't need air-conditioned lecture theatres to build a university. In fact, a $3,000 physical infrastructure can serve the same purpose as that built with $30,000," Furqan Qamar, Secretary General of the Association of Indian Universities, told IANS in an interview.
Qamar said that from less than a two dozen institutions of higher learning in 1942, India currently has about 800 universities. This was achieved by taking learning closer to the communities which made access to higher learning cheaper and inclusive.
The AU, UNECA and AfDB have been concerned with limited access to higher education on the continent and have suggested that African countries use the model of building institutes like the Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Science and other similar institutes funded by the Indian government. Unfortunately, with limited resources, this does not seem feasible.
Qamar said African countries would have to find a way of providing expanded access to education despite the limited resources because "education is not like a bunch of chocolates that benefits only the individual that enjoyed it, but society in general".
Though the joint report suggested that "good publicly-funded colleges and universities for higher and technical education" were essential, Qamar said India's expansion was not achieved through the government system alone but also through the contribution of the private sector.