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Cultural Landscapes of Mozambique


  • Total population: 22,894,000 (Ranked 52nd3in the world by the US Census Bureau).
  • Population density: 74.3 people per square mile.
  • Children 0-14: 44.3% (male 4,829,272/female 4,773,209).
  • 15-64: years: 52.8% (male 5,605,227/female 5,842,679)
  • 65 and Older: 2.9% (male 257,119/female 361,772) (2009 est.)
  • Male to female ratio: 102 males per 100 females.
  • Birth rate: 37.99 per 1,000 people.
  • Life expectancy at birth: 41.8 for males and 40.5 for females.
  • Infant mortality rate: 105.8 per 1,000 live births.
  • Official Language: Portuguese.
  • Other Languages: Indigenous dialects.
  • Ethnic Groups: Indigenous tribal groups, 99.66% including the Shangaan, Chokwe, Manyika, Sena, Makua; Europeans, 0.06%; Euro-Africans, 0.2%; Indians, 0.08%.
  • Religious group representation: 52.9% Christian (12,380,100) ,29.9 % Ethnoreligionist (7,000,000), and 16.5% Muslim (3,870,000). Less than one percent are Nonreligious, Hindu, Atheist, Baha’i, or Jew.
  • Education: Compulsory 7-14.
  • Literacy rate: 48%.

Educational Landscape

Pre-primary Beginning age, NA Duration, NA.
Primary Beginning age 7 Duration 5 years.
Secondary Beginning age 12 Duration 7 years.

The Ministrio da Educao (Ministry of Education) is responsible for the administration of the educational system in Mozambique. There is also the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, which is responsible for higher education and scientific establishments.

In 1997, there were 6025 primary schools in Mozambique (with an enrollment of 1.9 million students), 75 secondary schools (with an enrollment of 51,500 students) and 25 technical schools (with an enrollment of 12,000 students).


Illiteracy is a major issue in Mozambican education. Only 48% of those over 15 are unable to read. In some age groups, there is over 90% illiteracy.

Equality of education and access to education for women is also a major issue. Almost 75% of women over 15 are illiterate. The motto of the Ministry of Education is education for all.

In addition to improving the quality of and access to education, the Ministry of Education is seeking to increase enrollment in all levels of schooling.

The growing threat of AIDS is a major social issue, which is likely to affect education in the near future.

Ethnic Landscape

The ethnic breakdown in Mozambique is as follows:

  • Indigenous tribal groups-99.66%.
    • Shangaan.
    • Chokwe.
    • Manyika.
    • Sena.
    • Makua.
  • Europeans-0.06%.
  • Euro-Africans-0.2%.
  • Indians-0.08%.

The official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, but there are many indigenous dialects. The following are the main dialects:

  • Emakhuwa.
  • Xitsonga.
  • Ciyao.
  • Cisena.
  • Cishona.
  • Echuwabo.
  • Cinyanja.
  • Xironga.
  • Shimaconde.
  • Cinyungue.
  • Cicopi.
  • Bitonga.
  • Kiswahili.

English is taught to all pupils in the secondary school system.


The number of dialects can make communication difficult. And many rural citizens speak only their dialect, and are not familiar with the official language, Portuguese. This can prevent them from having access to government programs and legal representation.

AIDS is a dangerous and growing social issue in Mozambique. Estimates place the number of people with AIDS at 1.2 million (6.2% of the overall population). The number of adults with AIDS is 1.1 million (10% of the adult population, but some figures place it as high as 13.6%). 98,000 People with AIDS died in Mozambique in 1999.

Illiteracy is an issue, as over 50 percent of the population over 15 is considered illiterate. The percentage of women who are illiterate is thought to be almost 75%. This is symptomatic of the inequality between men and women, both socially and legally.

Many of the social issues facing Mozambique are also political in nature. The ruling government (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or Frelimo) has been accused by the opposition party (Mozambique National Resistance, or Renamo) of manipulating elections and the government. Thus, Mozambican life is fraught with political tension. Mozambique is considered a democracy, but years of civil war have limited democracy.

Freedom of the press is provided for in the constitution, but the government controls all broadcast media and owns or controls all of the largest newspapers. In addition, many rural areas have high illiteracy rates (as high as 90%), and thus information through the press is largely irrelevant.

Opposition groups are allowed to voice their opinions. Humanitarian groups and international human rights groups are allowed to operate in Mozambique. There is little interference with religious practice and freedom.

The legal system, however, is considered widely corrupt. Many citizens are unable to get fair trials, though they are guaranteed by the constitution. Because of corruption in the legal system, prison over-crowding is a major social issue, as is the quality of the prisons themselves. Estimates have one prisoner dying per week in prison because of the overcrowding and related conditions. The official language in the legal system in Portuguese, which many rural Mozambicans do not speak. This further impedes their ability to receive a fair trial, as does the very small number of judges and defense lawyers. Bribery of judges by lawyers is considered fairly commonplace.

Unions and collective bargaining are both allowed, and nonessential workers have the right to strike. Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed, but limited by time and notification requirements. Women are subject to legal and cultural discrimination. It is thought that domestic violence is common, but statistics are hard to find. Mozambique is also a very poor country, and has a very high infant mortality rate (almost 140 deaths per 1,000 live births).

Religion and Faith Landscape

52.9% Christian (12,380,100) ,29.9 % Ethnoreligionist (7,000,000), and 16.5% Muslim (3,870,000). Less than one percent are Nonreligious, Hindu, Atheist, Baha’i, or Jew.


Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Mozambique constitution. Human rights groups and humanitarian groups have reported very few cases of interference in religious activity. There is tension between Christians and Muslims, due to their differing beliefs, but persecution is not widespread by either group.


UNESCO Statistics Division.

US Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook.

Freedom House.

Jonathan Ketcham & Jordan Easley
© 2018 CYS

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