Who lives in Vanuatu?

Approximately 200,000 people live in the island chain. Over 80% of the population is ni-Vanuatu, the local term for their indigenous peoples. Those from other backgrounds, such as: Australian, Chinese, Japanese, European, American, New Zealander and other Pacific islanders comprise the minority in citizenship or residency.

Vanuatu claims the highest proportion of languages to populace in the world. 109 indigenous languages have been documented as being spoken in Vanuatu. The three languages recognized as “national” are Bislama, English and French. The lingua franca Bislama, often heard in the two town areas, is becoming more widely used by rural ni-Vanuatu. As a trade language, Bislama functions well in allowing diverse linguistic groups to communicate on a basic level. However, there are limitations (such as a small vocabulary in which one word could have several different meanings and a lack of words for many abstract or complex concepts) that make dialogue difficult on a spiritual level.

The education system teaches in either English or French, not Bislama (resulting in an inconsistent written standard for Bislama). Most teaching is by rote, as materials are limited, and classrooms are frequently overcrowded. Some children, especially in rural areas, cannot continue schooling because of financial or geographic constraints. Children who do succeed in finishing the primary level face an extended absence from their home environment, in order to attend secondary boarding school (often on another island). Literacy estimates vary.

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