Tanzania's story begins with the very origins of man. The famed Olduvai Gorge has provided archeological evidence of some of humanity's earliest ancestors. But little is known of subsequent human culture in East Africa before the Christian era. The region was probably first inhabited by ethnic groups using a click-tongue language similar to that of Southern Africa's Bushmen and Hottentots. These were slowly displaced by Bantu farmers migrating from the west and south and by Nilotes and related northern peoples.
Arab traders sailing the Indian Ocean plied the coastal areas of East Africa by the 8th century, and by the 12th traders and immigrants came from as far away as Persia and India. They built city and trading states along the coast, the Persian center at Kibaha, near the modern capital of Dar es Salaam, thriving until the Portuguese destroyed it in the early 1500s. The Portuguese, however, did little to colonize the area or explore the interior, and indigenous East Africa coastal dwellers, assisted by Arabs, drove off the Portuguese by the early 18th century. An Arab Sultan established a headquarters on Zanzibar in 1841, and the United States opened a consulate on the fabled island as early as 1837.
European exploration of the Tanzania interior began in the mid-19th century. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary-explorer who crusaded against the slave trade, was "found" by Henry Morton Stanley, an American journalist-explorer, who had been commissioned by the New York Herald to locate him. But the Germans were most active. The Society for German Colonization concluded treaties by which tribal chiefs accepted German "protection," which led to the establishment of the German East Africa Company. Germany and Britain negotiated East African spheres of influence, and in 1891 the German Government took over direct administration of the territory then called Tanganyika, with headquarters at Dar es Salaam.
Though German administration improved agriculture and infrastructure, African natives carried out a long and bloody rebellion from 1905-07. Following Germany's defeat in WWI, Britain assumed control of most of the territory. And after WWII, Tanganyika became a UN trust territory, again under British supervision.
In 1954, Julius Nyerere, a school teacher and one of only two Tanganyikans educated abroad, organized the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). The UK agreed to the establishment of internal self-government following elections in 1960, and Nyerere was named chief minister of the new government. The next year Tanganyika became autonomous, and Nyerere became Prime Minister, then President. In 1964 Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania. A proponent of African socialism ("Ujamaa"), Nyerere remained as President until 1985, and continued to exert influence until his death in 1999. But in the 1970s, socialist policies, drought and oil crisis, the breakup of the East African Community, and a 15-month war with Idi Amin's Uganda caused severe economic decline in Tanzania and led to liberal reforms in the 1980-90s.
Nearly 36 million citizens reside in Tanzania, Zanzibar and adjacent islands, an area roughly the size of Texas plus New Mexico. Dodoma, in the center of the country, is officially the political capital, but the port city of Dar es Salaam remains the dominant urban and commercial center. The population is about 45% Muslim and 45% Christian. The African population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups, the majority of Bantu stock. The official language is Kiswahili (Swahili), with English widely spoken. Some 80% of the people work in agriculture, per capita income is $300, and life expectancy is 50 years.
Julius Nyerere's African socialism shaped Tanzania's early system of education, focusing on the needs of a rural society, with little opportunity for higher education. But by the 1970s the ruling party itself began to decentralize and diversify education, though still emphasizing agriculture, commerce, technical skills and home economics in secondary school. Upper secondary education expanded offerings to social and pure sciences.
For a decade after 1974, candidates for university education were required to show at least a year of prior national service and two years of work experience. This policy greatly reduced enrollment and had other negative effects, and was repealed in 1984.
Kiswahili is the language of instruction in primary schools, English in secondary and higher education. The Ministry of Education and Scientific Research oversees Tanzania's education system.
Primary and Secondary Education
Tanzanian education follows a 7-4-2-3 system: 7 years of primary school; 4 years of lower secondary school leading to Ordinary Level (O-Level) exams in 9 subjects; 2 years of upper secondary leading to the Advanced Level (A-Level) exams in 9 subjects; 3 years of higher education leading to most Bachelor Degrees, though some fields require more time.
The school year for tertiary institutions generally begins in September or October. Because the results of the important A-Level advanced secondary school exams are not known until October, students may be forced to wait a year before beginning university studies.
The first higher education institution in Tanzania was established in 1961 as a college of the University of London--the University College of Tanganyika, initially offering a law program. In 1963, as University College Dar es Salaam, it became a constituent of the University of East Africa, with Makerere (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya) university colleges. In 1970 the University of East Africa was dissolved, and the University of Dar es Salaam became an independent national university. Sokoine University of Agriculture, created in 1984 from the Dar es Salaam agriculture faculty, is the second public university. Public universities are semi-autonomous and manage their own affairs under the Vice-Chancellor, who is appointed by the President of Tanzania.