A school in Hemel Hempstead has been working with schools in Ghana to support the community and create employment opportunities.
Longdean School has been linked successfully with Fast Track College (Senior High School) and Bedomase Methodist Junior High School, Agona-Ashanti, Ghana, for 13 years.
Over the years the school in Hemel Hempstead has received funding from the British Council, from fundraising by students - including school walks, non-uniform days and fundraising events - and the Schools Co-operative Society has supported the work through publicity and funds.
The school has conducted eight reciprocal visits over the years and the next visit is planned for post-pandemic times in order to open the new school building for Fast Track College.
A spokesperson for Longdean School said: "Since the first visit we have supported the building and running of an ICT Centre which was completed in 2012.
"This is self-funded, has created employment, supports the entire community, dozens of local schools and has challenged adult illiteracy in the area and continues to make positive changes to lives in this part of rural West Africa to this day.
"We also supported the community by working with our partners to develop a senior high school in the community that did not exist previously.
"Students had to travel many kilometres or pay boarding fees to get a full secondary education. Initially Fast Track College was developed to fulfil this role but had to rely on hired facilities and was financially difficult to sustain.
"We developed improved water resource access for the staff and students after our visit in 2018 but the school needed its own site and facilities to truly fulfil the vision of education that we all agreed was needed to support the development of the Bedomase educational community.
"After working closely with the tribal leadership and education chiefs land was granted and purchased and building began in Spring 2020."
Despite the impact of the pandemic, construction has continued and the school has managed to provide 500 academic books which were shipped by the charity Books2Africa to open a library, and allowed Government funds to be accessed in Ghana.
The library is now complete and the school is actively enrolling new students to attend the facility that is now close to completion.
The spokesperson added: "Our partnership has allowed students and staff from both communities to engage with each other and curriculum projects in all the schools involved have brought the partnership to life in a wide variety of subjects.
"Longdean School has had the prestigious International Schools Award since 2010, and our work has been recognised by the Royal Geographical Society, The SSAT (Schools Network) and the Parliamentary Review."
Mohammed Abu, link coordinator in Ghana, said: “There is no greater feeling in life than building a partnership which impacts people’s lives in a profound way.
"When we look around at the impact of our partnership between Longdean School and Fast Track College, it makes us smile to see the sustained friendship, partnership and initiatives that we have produced.”
Graham Cunningham, Headteacher, Longdean School, said: "I am delighted that the Fast Track School is now complete and ready to receive students.
"I am also immensely proud of the small part that the East Dacorum Cooperative Learning Trust, of which Longdean along with Astley Cooper and Adeyfield Schools, has played in raising money to support this project, a project that will empower large numbers of young people in Ghana."
Martin Macdonald, link coordinator for Longdean School, said: “It is with great pride that we see the long term fruits of our partnership.
"Sustained links between our two communities have resulted in genuine development of the educational facilities and opportunities in both places.
"The life chances for students and families are impacted by such positive change and we look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the future.”
The Rt Hon the Lord Boateng PC DL, an ex pupil of Longdean School was Her Majesty’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury and High Commissioner to South Africa and currently Chairs the International Council of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Book Aid International.
He said: “School to School links are a sustainable and effective means of community development benefiting all concerned and bringing people together in ways that change lives.
"Hertfordshire and the Ashanti Kingdom have meant much to me over the years and I am thrilled to see Longdean and Bedomase linked in this way. Congratulations to all concerned.”