Primarily of the Bantu group of south and central Africa, the blacks are divided into two major language groups, which are subdivided into several ethnic groups. The Mashona (Shona speakers), who constitute about 75 percent of the population, have lived in the area the longest and are the majority language group. The Matabele (Sindebele speakers), representing about 20 percent of the population and centered in the southwest around Bulawayo, arrived in within the last 150 years. An offshoot of the South African Zulu group, they maintained control over the Mashona until the white occupation of Rhodesia in 1890.
More than half of the whites, primarily of English origin, arrived in Zimbabwe after World War II. Afrikaners from South Africa and other European minorities, including Portuguese from Mozambique, are also present. Until the mid-1970's, there were about 1,000 white immigrants per year, but from 1976 to 1985 a steady emigration resulted in a loss of more than 150,000, leaving approximately 100,000 in 1992.
English, the official language, is spoken by the white population and understood, if not always used, by more than half of the blacks. The literacy rate is estimated at 70%. Primary and secondary schools were segregated until 1979 when racial restrictions were removed.
Since independence, the educational system had been systematically
enlarged by the Zimbabwean Government which is committed to
providing free public education to all citizens on an equal basis. As of
the late 1970s, some 50 percent of the African children (5-19 years old)
were listed officially as attending rural schools. Today, most African
children attend primary school. Primary through post-secondary
enrollment has expanded from 1 million to about 2.9 million since
independence. About 40 percent of the rural primary schools were
destroyed during the Rhodesian conflict, which delayed improvement
of the rural education system. Higher education, offered at the
University of Zimbabwe in Harare, the new National University of
Science and Technology in Bulawayo, the new Africa (Methodist)
University in Mutare, several teacher-training colleges, and three
technical institutes, are being expanded with assistance from several