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Mozambique, or in official circles, the Republic of Mozambique, is a large country in southeastern Africa, with a total geographic area of nearly 310,000 square miles.  The country shares borders with Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest, Zimbabwe to the west, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the north and the Indian Ocean, which comprises its eastern border.  The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo, formerly known as Laurenco Marques. 
 
Mozambique has a total permanent population of just less than 23 million, with the most populous areas of the country being the northern and central provinces, which contain roughly 45 percent of the population.  Mozambique is very diverse, with the Macua people, who number approximately four million, representing the most dominant ethnic group.  Other ethnic groups in the country include the Sena and Shara, who are prominent in the Zambiza Valley, and the Shangaan, who are dominant in the southern part of the country.
 
Portuguese is the national language of Mozambique and is used for all official purposes in the country, including government administration, commerce, media and education.  It is also the most widely spoken language in the country—spoken as a second language by approximately 40 percent of the population and as a first language by over 10 percent.  Most people in Mozambique speak one of the many regional indigenous languages as their first language or mother tongue.  Christianity is the most predominant religion in the nation, practiced by about 56 percent of the population, while Muslims, accounting for roughly 18 percent of the population, are the largest religious minority.
 
Education in Mozambique
 
Education in Mozambique is overseen by the national government, which spends roughly 8 percent of the country’s budget on the education system.  Unfortunately, since 1975, the year Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal, new school construction and teacher training enrollments have not kept pace with population increases, and consequently, education has suffered at all levels.
 
The education system in Mozambique is divided between three levels:  primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education.
 
Primary education, which spans seven years and serves children between the ages of 5 and 12, is the only compulsory level of education under the Mozambique system.  Students are provided broad instruction through a curriculum that includes subjects such as Portuguese, mathematics, natural and social sciences, history and geography, physical education and fine arts.  Following the seventh grade, all Mozambique students must take and pass the national standardized examination as a prerequisite for entering secondary school.
 
Secondary education in Mozambique spans three years, representing the 8th, 9th and 10th grades.  At this level students can choose between two distinct educational tracks:  university preparatory studies, a purely academic track, and vocational education, a program in which students receive valuable instruction and training in one of many important career fields, with the goal of entering the workforce upon graduation. 
 
Students who complete the university preparatory track of secondary education are eligible to enroll in one of several universities in Mozambique, but space at these universities is severely limited and many students must often wait one to two years before beginning their studies at this level, during which time they are either unemployed or work as teachers in the nation’s primary and or secondary schools, following a short condensed course of teacher training.

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