The International School of Ahafo is a small co-educational day school, which was set up for the sole purpose of educating the children of management-level employees at the nearby gold mine,run by Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd. In order for Newmont to recruit and employ experienced expatriate and national managers on contracts that would enable them to live with their families, a school was necessary. This was due to the remoteness of the Ahafo Plant site and the dearth of quality education available in the area. The school operated successfully for some time thereafter,with the support of International School Services (ISS), an American company which helps in the establishment and management of schools. The school grew to be successful enough to achieve accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (USA),which was to run from 1st May 2012 until 1st May 2019.
However, in 2014 the price of gold was falling significantly and the school was accruing increasing running costs,due to the way it was organized to support the mining operations. Instead of the typical northern hemisphere three term year, with holidays at Christmas, Easter and a long break during the summer months, the original school operated a ‘6 weeks on/2 weeks off’ system, where teachers would have their R&R breaks every six weeks throughout the year. Newmont footed the bill for all flights and accommodation at this time, and the school needed to employ additional staff to cover classes when colleagues were off site.
Due to the above reasons, Newmont wished to divest itself of the school in 2014 and considered closing it down. However, a small group of Ghanaian parents, with children already at the school, made the decision to take it over in order to keep it open. Newmont agreed to continue funding the school on condition that, after a three-year period, the school should be financially independent and Newmont would withdraw all monetary support.
To this end, the school was re-established in January 2015 as a non-Newmont school, operating with a typical three-term year, a completely new staff, curriculum, leadership and management. The aim was to become financially independent within three years and this was to be done by opening up to the local community, under the oversight of a Board of Parent Governors. The current Principal and Business Manager were recruited to take on the project and work with the Board Chair, Mr. Joshua Mortoti, ,in order to take the school forward as an independent entity. A comprehensive business plan was drawn up by Board members and presented to Newmont. Meanwhile, marketing materials were prepared in order to inform the community about the ‘new’ school. The Business Manager researched the fee structures of similar schools in Ghana,in order to set the fees that would be needed to cover the costs of the school,in the hopes that after three years, the school could be financially independent.
However, within six months of being re-established, word reached the school via the Board Chair that Newmont had changed its mind and wished to continue to support the school but at arm’s length, maintaining it, once again, solely for the children of managers at the mine. The school and its administration were to run privately, but with the funding provided by Newmont. Understandably, this strategic decision had a significant impact on numbers,as the school was exclusively dependent upon Newmont’s recruitment policies for its students. In August 2015,the number of students on roll was 31. Despite students leaving, the number remained at 31 for the start of the next academic year. However, by August 2017 no new students had been admitted and numbers started to decline. At the beginning of the academic year for 2017 – 2018, only 21 students were on the school roll.
In addition to the stagnating numbers, there was continuing confusion in the MKV community regarding whether or not the school was to become independent or stay permanently under Newmont’s auspices. This confusion continued for many months as there was nothing in writing to the effect that the school’s future was firmly fixed to Newmont. This issue was finally resolved when a Memorandum of Understanding was agreed and signed on 5thMay 2017.
The Principal shared the worrying decline in numbers with the Board early in the academic year of 2017 – 2018. Bernard Wessels, the General Manager of Newmont,voiced his intent at this time, to maintain the school in the long-term. The Board has since started to explore ways in which numbers at the school can be increased within Newmont, rather than opening up to the outside community.