Finding A Balance Between Two Different Systems, My Thoughts And Reflections From The United States

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By Tawanda Nyahasha

I moved to the United States at an interesting time just to say the least. I moved here in late August 2016 so the campaign for the US presidential elections was at its highest. I got to see how they campaigned and I even got the chance to hear one of the candidates Hilary Clinton speak when she came to my school. I got to observe how the election was conducted, the announcement of the result, the atmosphere after the winner was declared etc.

I feel like it was necessary for me to arrive at a time like this because I got to see the United States in a way I had never imagined before. I would say a couple of years ago when one looked at the United States from the outside we all saw the same thing: a powerful country, which detects the affairs of the world, the country that got it all under control. The country I saw in 2016 however was really different. I saw a country which was very divided. Not only that but I saw a country which was scared, a country which was not sure about it’s future anymore and this was a very different United States than the one I always imagined when I was back home.

It was also necessary for me to arrive at a time like this because if I had come here sooner and any American tried to convince me that this country has problems too I would have never paid much attention. I wouldn’t pay attention to that person because I would always look at the United States in comparison to my country which is suffering economically.

Any complaints from Americans would have been dismissed as complaints from a spoiled child who keeps asking for more. However, after seeing America at a time when it was scared like that I was willing to listen and it was in my willingness to listen that I heard people complain about the American educattion system.

Now, let me be honest with you, when I first heard people complain about the education system I was like look I’m willing to listen and everything but this is the spoiled child coming out of you again. You have no right to complain about the education system. When I was in Zimbabwe I condemned our education system so much, which if I’m being honest I still do.

The number one thing I have a problem with when it comes to the Zimbabwean education system is the emphasis that is put in retaining knowledge rather than applying it. We have a lot of people who are just book smart. I studied Literature, History and Divinity in my Advanced Level and I remember how some people knew the textbook in and out but they couldn’t apply any of it for the life of them.

So with this in mind. when I heard Americans complain about their education system I dismissed those complains almost immediately. What made me not even want to listen more was the fact that they said the problem with their education system was also the fact that students did not know how to apply the information and I was like now that is nonsense.

I however began to see cracks in their education system too. One event that got me thinking was when a group of students from my school who have a YouTube channel called UV Originals were asking people questions in our cafeteria. The YouTube channel is supposed to be a funny channel so they were asking people trivial questions like: which continent does Europe belong to? Some of the replies they got from the people did not make sense to me. The answers were not answers given by people who have been tricked by the triviality of the question but showed ‘a lack of knowledge.’

This when I realized that yes, there is a problem in the U.S education system but the problem is not what many people say it is. The problem is not about application of the knowledge. I actually think they got that part sorted out. The problem I is ‘lack of knowledge.’ I believe students in the US are not taught to retain information at all.

I asked seven random students from my school who were in their third and fourth years to pick any class of their choice they did freshman year and see if they could tell me five things they learned from that class they still remembered. None of them could remember anything. I then asked five students from Zimbabwe to tell me five things they remember from any class they did in high school and they remembered a lot.

This does not mean that Zimbabweans are more intelligent than Americans because I don’t remember a lot from my freshman year as well but I remember quite a lot from high school. This shows two different systems that both need a little dosage of what the other has.

I must say however that although the few people I asked seem to prove my point I still feel as if a deeper research needs to be done. Firstly, because I was racing against time I only asked seven American students and because I am not in Zimbabwe right now the people I asked are those on my contact list thus it was not random at all.

I still believe that even with deeper research we will reach the same conclusions. These two countries both have systems that needs to be corrected. Zimbabwe needs to start teaching students how to apply the knowledge they have and the US needs to do better when it comes to retaining information for I feel the application part is not really an issue for them.

Tawanda Nyahasha is a Zimbabwean studying towards a degree in Psychology at Johnson C Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. You can check out his blog here or reach out to him via Facebook


  1. Tinashe Nyahasha

    Tawanda, I actually think a system that discourages mere memorization of information is a good one. This new world needs people who have skills to learn and then apply and then relearn over and over and over. Remembering stuff is not necessary (kind of) in a world were information is ubiquitous. It can even be a disadvantage as far as it keeps you from entertaining the thought that all you know may be wrong.

    I think that’s the biggest disadvantage with our system here. It produces arrogant individuals who know it all. I would rather eat humble pie by not recognizing that Europe is a continent because that humility will make me remain teachable

    1. Tawanda Nyahasha

      I agree but I still feel retention is important a little bit especially with the US example. Americans sometimes are considered super arrogant because they believe themselves to be in the center of the universe and they are not willing to learn about other people. Their perceptions on what Africa is like, how they think we run around naked is a good example on how lack of knowledge is killing them. So lack of knowledge sometimes breeds arrogance too. For their attitude is like if I don’t know it, it’s not important but sometimes it is.

  2. Rangariro Moyo

    QUITE FRANKLY, Anything would be better than Supa Mandiwanzira, as he had a wrong idea of his brief. To Supa, ECONET needed to be pulled down at whatever cost. I had christianed him ( S. Mandiwanzira PhD (Econet)

  3. Digger

    On education, part of the problem in Zimbabwe and Africa in general is that most of us are first generation graduates. In other words we are on our own, our parents and grandparents can only give us advice on how to deal with people but not on finance, structuring deals, engineering or most activities in the modern economy. Lets use engineering as an example. Most of the world outside Africa have bridges dating back hundreds and in some cases thousands of years back. Assuming knowledge of construction of these bridges has passed on from generation to generation. Then those said countries will have hundreds of years experience building bridges. There will be people alive who helped build the previous bridge to pass on the knowledge, experience and mistakes to the next generation. In Zimbabwe you only have your book to guide you on how to build the bridge because we are the first generation black engineers.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Hey Digger, never thought of this like that. Am gonna be chewing on this for the next few days

    2. Tawanda Nyahasha

      Wow man I never thought of it like that. That’s a really valid point

  4. TheKing

    I share similar thoughts. My experience is with Zimbabwe and South Africa. I will list a few points that I noted in my stay in S.A:

    1. Reading Culture: The Zim education system teaches us to read and retain knowledge. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantages have been highlighted by Tawanda and Tinashe. The advantage is we adopt a reading culture at a very early stage in life. I see South Africans struggling to read a few hundred pages of documentation to learn a new skill/API. It’s a breeze for me. I just sacrifice a few nights/weekends like I have been doing since my school days. The S.A education system encourages the teacher to tell the kid stuff, the Zim education system encourages the teacher to make sure the kid reads and retains the right stuff.

    2. Practical Side of Education: One thing we all undermine is the practical side of education in Zim. Subjects like Woodwork, Metalwork, Agriculture, Building Studies, Fashion and Fabrics, Technical Drawing e.t.c give one a skill after O-Level. This is very important, it makes us competitive. Our people easily become carpenters and brick layers when they can’t find jobs for qualifications they studied for. This is because we would have learned these skills in high school. I took Sciences at A-Level, we had to do experiments as part of the finals exams. We learned basic lab skills and procedure. It means after A-Level, I could easily work as some sort of lab assistant. Comparing to S.A, because they are not taught the practical side of education, they come out of high school with zero skills and therefore are not as competitive as us.

    3. General Knowlegde: I believe xenophobia and racism in S.A are as a result of an education system that doesn’t give students enough general knowlegde. I have met people with full Matric who struggle to name S.A’s neighbouring countries. I have been asked why Zimbabweans give their kids Zulu names, i.e Ndebele names.It still fascinates me that I meet Zulus who do not know anything about Mfecane. I have met Sothos who get surprised when I tell them of common words between Sotho and Shona, i.e similarities between all Bantu languages. This lack of general knowlegde makes them see other Africans as inferior.

    4. Languages: One thing the S.A education system did well is separating between home language and second language in school. Students study a home language and pick a second language to study. This means one can learn two languages in addition to English. You will notice as a result, South Africans are very good with languages. There is not much tribal tension as a result of this.

    S.A could learn a lot from us just as we can learn a lot from the Americans. Most will agree with me that we need to take the S.A approach on learning languages.

  5. brianchat

    Just out of interest, how do you apply Literature or History to life?

    1. Digger

      You learn from history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. You use history to find inspiration from others who have succeeded, it helps you understand why things are the way they are. Most importantly you should be writing our history so we don’t keep complaining our history was written by the white man. Literature should enable you to sprinkle profound quotes in your writing. Disclaimer I did sciences.