Tanzania Facts

“For poor people like us, education should be an instrument of liberation”

J.K.Nyerere – President of Tanzania

Tanzania Statistics

  • Population of 43.7 million people (UNICEF) includes over 120 different ethnic groups
  • 3 million orphans (1.3 million due to HIV/AIDS)
  • 1.4 million people living with AIDS (UNICEF)
  • Religion: About 45% of Tanzanians are Christian, 45% are Muslim and 10% follow indigenous belief systems.
  • Life expectancy at birth: 56
  • 89% of people live below the international poverty live of $1.25 per day
  • 22% of children are malnourished
  • Only 35% of 15-19 year old female adolescents have a comprehensive knowledge of HIV

Painted Map of Tanzania

Tanzania is situated on the east coast of Africa, and includes the islands of Zanzibar. The climate ranges from tropical near the coast to temperate in the highlands, whilst the land consists of coastal plains, a central plateau and highlands in the north and south.  It is one of the poorest countries in the world, but geographically, it is one of the most beautiful.  It is home to the Ngorogoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro, and there is an abundance and diversity of wildlife, especially within the National Parks.  Such natural beauty has enabled Tanzania to build a thriving tourist industry.

Despite this, Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries of the world (156 of 174 in the UN’s Human Development Index), with huge external debt.  Today, more than half of the population lives in absolute poverty with 80% depending on subsistence level farming. It has a widening inequality gap, as the numbers of people living in absolute poverty has changed little, despite gradually increasing economic growth.

In the first 5 years following independence in 1961, President Julius Nyerere’s government pursued a World Bank supported market economic policy, but lacking the necessary foreign investment, this did not produce the hoped for growth, and many more socialist policies have been adopted since.  These, together with tighter financial management since 1995, (three years after the establishment of multi-party democracy) have produced greater economic stability, but have shown no significant reduction in poverty.

Recent Ministry of Water figures suggest that 70% of the rural population, and 30% of urban dwellers have no access to safe water. Unsurprisingly, diarrhea is said to account for at least 20% of infant deaths. Despite high infant mortality, AIDS, and a life expectancy of 56 years, the population is still on the increase.

There is high level of gender inequality as Tanzanian women have lower levels of access to literacy, to formal education, lower levels of income and reduced life expectancy compared to men.

Education in Tanzania

Tanzania’s post-independence commitment to ‘basic education for all’ is reflected in an adult literacy rate of 73% percent, which is higher than much of the Sub-Saharan region.  Despite almost complete enrolment in primary education, figures for actual attendance and completion of five years of primary education suggest that the goal of Education For All may still be some way off.  Poverty remains its greatest challenge.  In spite of free primary education, the cost of keeping a child in primary school is considerable for a poor family as they struggle to provide the required books and uniform. Other factors limiting children’s access to education include distance to schools, too few schools and schools of poor quality (URT, 2005).

In contrast to high levels of participation in primary education, access to secondary education is extremely limited in Tanzania. In 2006, net enrolment for secondary school reached 13.4 percent (URT, 2006), due largely to the inadequate number of secondary schools (URT, 2005:18).  Failure to complete a primary education and inadequate access to secondary schools continue to prevent access to a secondary education. Although enrolment at entry level for secondary school is similar for girls and boys, retention drops off significantly for girls.  Only a tiny proportion of people in Tanzania participate in higher education, (the gross enrolment rate for 2000-1 was 0.7 per cent, with a very large gender imbalance – for males the rate was 1.2 per cent, for females 0.2 per cent.