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Tanzania, known officially as the United Republic of Tanzania, is a large country in East Africa, with a total geographic area of just under 365,000 square miles.  The country is bordered to the north by Uganda and Kenya, to the west by Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south by Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia and to the east by the Indian Ocean.  Tanzania contains 26 regions or “micoa,” including the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar.  Since 1996, the capital city of Tanzania has been Dodoma, while Dar es Salaam, the former capital of the country, is the largest city.  The name Tanzania is derived from the names of two states:  Tanganyika and Zanzibar.  These states united in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which later became the United Republic of Tanzania.
 
Tanzania has an estimated population of 43.1 million, making it the 30th largest country in the world by population, and a population density of 119 inhabitants per square mile.  The African population in Tanzania is comprised of more than 120 different ethnic groups, the largest being the Bantu groups of Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Chagga, Nyakyusa, Haya, Hehe, Bena, Gogo, and Makonde, each numbering over one million.  The population also includes people of Arab, Indian and Pakistani heritage, as well as small communities of Chinese and Europeans.
 
There are two official languages in Tanzania:  Swahili, which is considered the de facto national language; and English, which is used in the higher courts and as the language of instruction in institutions of higher learning.  The Swahili language is seen as a unifying force between the various tribes, and English allows the country to participate in the global economy and culture.  Informally, most Tanzanians speak their tribal language, and Swahili and English are learned thereafter, usually by participating in the country’s school system, where both languages are used in concert with each other.  Christianity is the predominant religious faith in Tanzania, practiced by roughly 62 percent of the population.  Muslims are the second largest religious group (35%), followed by those who practice indigenous beliefs (3%).
 
Education in Tanzania
 
Education in Tanzania is overseen and regulated by the national Ministry of Education and is compulsory for seven years, the years that make up a student’s primary school education.  The education system is divided into five levels or stages: pre-primary education, provided for two years for children ages 5-6; primary education, a seven-year stage (Standards 1-7) and the only compulsory level of education, serving students between the ages of 7 and 14; secondary ordinary level, a four-year course of study (Forms 1-4) for students between the ages of 14 and 17; secondary advanced level, a two-year program (Forms 5-6) for students between the ages of 18 and 19; and university education, where the typical time required to earn an undergraduate degree is three years.
 
Primary education in Tanzania offers a broad curriculum featuring twelve subject areas:  mathematics, science, geography, civics, history, English language, vocational subjects, French, religion, information and communication technology, and school sports. The primary goals at this level of education are to promote critical and creative thinking, communication, numeracy, technology literacy, personal and social life-skills and lifelong learning.
 
Like many countries in this region of Africa, Tanzania faces many challenges in providing education to its children, including run-down facilities and a shortage of schools, overcrowding (the average teacher to student ratio is 54:1), a lack of textbooks and inadequate teacher training.  But perhaps the largest obstacle to a proper education is poverty.  Prior to 1972, public education at all levels required student tuition. These fees created major problems for the majority of families—families who could not afford to send their children to school. Today tuition is still required for all secondary school programs, and although primary education is now “free,” parents must still pay for things such as uniforms, testing fees and supplies.  Enrollment has risen since the elimination of primary school tuition, but even with this small boost in attendance nearly half of all school-age children still do not attend school, and those that do attend seldom make it past the fifth grade.
 
The lack of educational access in Tanzania is evident in the country’s literacy rate.  According to the Tanzanian government, 27 percent of the adult population is functionally illiterate—a statistic that most educational experts in the region believe is much higher.

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