MARY ASHUN – Transformational Leader of Re-Imagined Education


“Do you see galaxies where others see mere stars?”[1] inquires Dr. Mary Ashun, the visionary leader and internationally acclaimed educator, administrator, researcher and author who is leading the charge to re-imagine education and provide creative solutions to improve the quality of education in Africa and beyond. She has over twenty-five years’ experience in education in North America and Africa with key projects in the designing and creation of educational opportunities and interventions for all at every level of learning. Her leadership of the Ghana International School (GIS) in Accra, first as Principal for nearly a decade and now as CEO, has been very much lauded and won her notable awards for her achievements. Dr. Ashun has spoken on many platforms on key educational and national issues. She has also authored children and young adults’ books, staged a number of plays and published on various topics in education and the sciences, pure and applied alike.



Dr. Mary Asabea Ashun (nee Apea) was born in Accra in 1968 to Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Apea, a former Educator and Ghanaian diplomat and Emma Elizabeth Apea, a teacher and entrepreneur. When she was six, her father was stationed at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London thus her family lived there for three years.[2] She had her secondary education at Achimota School in Accra before proceeding to the University of East London in the United Kingdom from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Combined Sciences. In pursuit of her passion for Science, Dr. Ashun crossed the Atlantic first to Buffalo, NY from where she graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry. Her thesis focused on the role of antiretrovirals in AIDS therapies and she worked with her team to develop and test a general antiretroviral agent (DNP Ploy-A).[3]

She then moved to Canada where she earned a Bachelor of Education degree in Secondary Education at the University of Toronto. She has shared that when asked why she ‘went back’ to study an undergraduate degree after a PhD, she always mentions that ‘it can never be classified as going back when you finally find what you want to do in life’. As a trained biochemist, Mary had the option of working as a research scientist but  rather chose the classroom over the laboratory – she loves being with her learners. Dr. Ashun has taught science, mathematics and technology at all levels of the education cycle in the Ontario province of Canada.

One could argue that Dr. Ashun’s interest in science education was shaped by her admiration for her chemistry teacher in secondary school. She regularly cites this teacher as having a great impact on her passion for teaching. She was moved by the excitement and passion that Mr Titi Ofei brought to the teaching of chemistry. She learned from him that one must bring passion to work. As for the flair for teaching per se, it must have been passed on from both her parents —it’s just in Mary’s bones.

After a decade of teaching at the pre-tertiary level in the Ontario province, Dr. Ashun’s  passion was beginning to wane and this was noticed by some of her students. Fortunately, one of the parents of her students who had also noticed the drop in passion, pointed her towards an opportunity to ‘teach teachers how to teach Science’.  For the next five years, as an assistant professor at Redeemer University in Ontario, Dr. Ashun taught teachers in the Faculty of Education how to teach Science to pre-tertiary students. She employed various ICT tools – online dissection software, chemistry graphing software – to drive up interest and enhance the teaching of Science. She trained the teachers to prepare their students for international competitions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Prior to joining the Ghana International School (GIS) as Principal, Dr. Ashun was a School Principal in Canada. Since she joined GIS as Principal and Head of School in 2014, Mary has, in her own words, worked with “a fantastic team of school leaders to transform how it (GIS) teaches, learns, collaborates and grows.[4]



An Honoured Educator

In May 2011, Dr Ashun, was awarded a $200,000 grant by the Canadian International Development Agency to work on literacy development and business growth in Asamankese in the Eastern region of Ghana. In order to achieve a longer-lasting impact, Dr. Ashun, working together with a team of students and adult volunteers, grew the literacy program into His Majesty’s Christian School, a low-cost education option for children in the Asamankese vicinity. The desire to achieve longer-lasting impact has driven Dr. Ashun to always search for solutions and structures that are likely to out-live her. The school which started with the children of the women in the literacy program (less than 15) has now grown to almost 300 pupils in creche to Year 6.

Dr. Ashun currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer working out of the Office of Strategy Execution of Ghana International School (GIS). Her leadership of GIS has won her many accolades and left a lasting impact. Much similar to what she taught her students at Redeemer University College, Dr. Ashun has led the enhancement of the classroom experience at GIS by promoting the use of online learning and ICT enhanced teaching. Students at GIS are exposed to artificial intelligence and robotics and undertake fieldwork gathering data for analysis and action planning. Giving her training as a research scientist, it is not surprising that she encourages her teachers to enable students to undertake field explorations. Her students have made field trips to irrigation facilities, recycling plants and livestock production farms. They have also participated in international STEM competitions, just like Dr. Ashun taught her students at Redeemer University College.  Much like her favourite chemistry teacher, Mr. Titi Ofei, Mary transmits her passion and excitement for teaching and learning to her students. One of such former students is Christina DeVries (Redeemer University Class of 2011) who was clearly impacted by Dr. Ashun.  In Christina’s own words,  “One of my professors at the time, Dr. Mary Ashun, challenged us to consider what part of education touched our hearts. I chose to learn more about education in Canada’s First Nations.”[5]

Dr. Ashun places immense importance on having quality teachers and has been at the forefront of  programs aimed at improving the quality of teachers at GIS and other schools. She believes that “teaching and research should go hand in hand” and that teachers must observe their classrooms and their students’ approach to learning and wonder “ how could this be better?”.[6] Teachers at GIS are encouraged to conduct and publish research in education and in many cases, are assisted with funding opportunities.

In Dr. Ashun’s view, cooperation between teachers and parents is required for children to succeed in education. “There must always be that synergy between home and school” she demands. GIS regularly organises Parent-Teacher meetings to help create this synergy and also encourages student ownership of work by allowing them to share their own growth with their parents in what is known as a ‘student-led conference’.

Occasionally, Dr. Ashun takes teaching from the classroom to the screen. From September 2011 to February 2012, she was the creator and host of a Literacy show, Book ‘Em TV, on Rogers TV, in Mississauga, Canada.

Prior to serving as principal of GIS, Dr. Ashun was the principal of Philopateer Christian College in Toronto, Canada. a K-12 school. Dr. Ashun is a member of the Global Education Council, contributing to the shaping of the world’s education ecosystem with global education innovation transformation. In 2019 she was elected a board member of the Association of International Schools in Africa (ASIA) a role which allowed her to invest her ideas in an organisation focused on improving education on the continent through the efforts of International Schools.[7]

An Accomplished Researcher, Writer and Speaker

Dr. Ashun, or as many of her readers may know her, “Asabea Ashun” or “Abena Apea,” is a prolific writer who has produced works in different genres of fiction, from short stories to science fiction books for children.[8] The aforementioned pseudonyms usually signal which of her experiences she is drawing from to write. Abena Apea is her ‘full Ghanaian self’ who writes Ghanaian stories especially for children, while Asabea Ashun refers to her ‘multicultural self’ – drawing from her broad experiences in Ghana, US, UK and Canada. When one sees Dr. Mary Ashun, then they are likely about to hear from the official educator scientist.[9]

Mary has published over thirteen novels and written numerous articles. Her fiction books include Tuesday’s Child (2010), which was shortlisted as a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award[10] ; Serwa Akoto’s Diary (2013); Mistress of the Game (2011); The Adventures of Kobby Badu-Smith: A Poolside Adventure (2015); The Adventures of Kobby Badu-Smith: A Space Adventure (2011); Grace, The Pandemic Warrior (2021); The Adventures of Monty Horton: A Poolside Adventure (2010); The Adventures of Monty Horton: A Sweet Adventure (2010); 22 Blessings in Disguise (2008).[11]

She has also written scripts and produced stage adaptations including The Prince of Egypt- a GIS Adaptation, a musical that her students performed at the National Theatre in Accra in March 2017.[12] Her most recent short story Kweku Checks Out, a lament on the new face of mental health joins those of eminent writers in Africa and the Diaspora in an anthology titled “Voices That Sing Behind the Veil” edited by Ivor Agyeman Duah.

Away from the fictional world, Dr. Ashun has researched and published papers in the fields of pure and applied sciences and education. She has published on topics such as  the impact of professional development course on the global perspective of  teachers[13] , frameworks for professional development of teachers and the teaching of mathematics.[14]

Dr. Ashun enjoys speaking and has done so at academic conferences, spiritual retreats, teacher retreats and seminars. She has spoken at several conferences on the importance of STEM education for both boys and girls. She is very vocal on educational issues in Ghana and on the African continent. She was vocal when her alma mater, Achimota School, refused admission to Rastafarian students, publishing a lengthy article on what became a much-discussed national issue in Ghana.[15]

Chief Executive Officer

Success begets success, as the saying goes, and more work is the reward for good work done. After nearly ten years of transformational leadership at GIS as principal, the board appointed her as CEO for strategy execution with responsibilities for ensuring sustainability of the organisation’s core mandate, and in collaborating  with local and international partners in the furtherance of the school’s mission and vision.[16]



Family Affair

Dr. Ashun is very family-oriented and dotes on them, both her family of orientation as well as her family of procreation. Regarding the latter, Mary is married to Joseph Ashun, a leading Maintenance engineer who has worked extensively with leading mining companies e.g. Barrick Gold , with whom she has three adult sons.[17] Abeyku, Kwam and Jojo  were all born in North America and are very vocal about their African roots.[18] Since taking on the Ghana International School role, they have been a transnational family, doing life between Accra, Ghana and Toronto, Canada.

Societal Impact and Change

Dr. Ashun has been championing the provision of quality education across Africa and other continents. She is a major advocate for governments focusing resources on the provision of the necessary infrastructure, policies and curriculum to train quality teachers. She sees teachers as central to the provision of quality education and the creation of engaging and stimulating classrooms. She has been  leading the organising of conferences and seminars to empower teachers to become creative. 

Dr. Ashun and GIS annually organise the TIME Educators Conference to provide teachers the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills to consolidate their teaching and learning strategies to improve student outcomes.[19]  TIME is an acronym for Transform Inspire Motivate Educate. GIS has also partnered the Ghana Education Service to train teachers through a collaboration with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This initiative, too, is one of Dr. Ashun’s many legacies at GIS. She is taking advantage of the privileged position of GIS to help underprivileged  schools in rural Ghana.[20]

Dr. Ashun regularly raises funds to support her charities – His Majesty’s Christian School, Enough Inc. and one of her favourites, Teach for Ghana.[21]

Recognition, Awards and Boards

In 2023, Dr. Ashun was named among the top ten finalists for the Africa Education Medal 2023 in recognition of her leadership, impact and advocacy in the field of education.[22] This was sponsored by T4 Education (UK). In 2018, she was awarded the Excellent Educator Award by Endless Possibilities and Hope Development Organization for her work and passion as an educator.[23] The Teacher’s College of Columbia University awarded her the Klingenstein School Heads Fellowship in  2014.[24]

Mary has been honoured for her work in Education by the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), receiving the Educational Leadership Award for Private Education.  She has been a council member of the Association of Internationally Certified Schools (ASICS) in Ghana, Chair of the advisory board of Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works and is a former Board member of the Association of International Schools in Africa. Mary Ashun is a member of the BETT Global Education Council, a driving force of visionaries from some of the world’s biggest global brands and educational institutions who are setting the tone of education globally.[25]



“I pray that by the time I exit this earth, I will have used up all the grace that God gave me and poured it into someone else,”[26] says Dr. Ashun. At Perbi Executive Leadership Education (PELÉ), where authentic and customised relationships and resources are offered to C-level executives, including education executives, to grow personally, succeed professionally, and become significant societally, we have conscripted Mary the Educator-Leader as a consultant in education leadership development at PELÉ. Together we hope to hone current C-level leadership as well as incubate a host of emerging C-suite executives in the vital space of education.



The celebrated Ghanaian-Canadian educator, Dr. Mary Asabea Ashun, is impacting Ghana, Africa and the world as a visionary and transformational leader in education. She is leading the drive to re-imagine education to improve the quality of teachers and to create engaging classrooms for learners. She is sharing her passion and vast experience in the educational sector on numerous platforms and channels. Dr. Ashun is forming and transforming minds with her research publications and novels. Mary is transforming that which transforms us most: education. The many children and adults who have encountered her works appreciate her immensely. She is making a difference in the educational sector not only in her native continent, but also in her wider global community and deserves to be celebrated. “Most can wait for a sunset,” says Dr. Ashun, “the passionate chase a sunrise.”[27] Mary has now crossed the half-a-century mark in age yet from all indications, despite all her achievements as a transformational leader reimagining education, it is still just about dawn for her.


Facebook: @Mary Asabea Ashun

LinkedIn: @Mary Apea Ashun PhD

Instagram: @globallyrestless


Twitter: @AshunDr

Youtube Channel: Mary Ashun



[1] Dr. Mary Ashun. WhatsApp interaction with PELÉ on 22nd March, 2024.

[2] Asabea Ashun. Retrieved 10th March 2024

[3]Ashun, M.A., Hu, Y., Kang, I., Li, C.C. & Wang, J. H. 1996 Inhibition of murine leukemia virus with poly-2′-O-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)poly[A] ResearchGate Retrieved 13th March 2024

[4] ‘Short Biography.’ Dr. Mary Ashun. September 2023 (furnished PELÉ by the author).

[5] “Christina DeVries”. Redeemer University. Archived from the original on 2019-09-05. Retrieved 13th March 2024


[7] “Mary Ashun”. . Retrieved 12th March 2024


[9] “One-on-One With Ghanaian Writer, Dr. Mary A. Ashun”. Geosi Reads. 2011-11-01. Retrieved 12th March 2024

[10] “Mary Ashun | Writers Project of Ghana”. Retrieved 11th March 2024.


[12] “GIS celebrates 10th Anniversary Musical with Prince of Egypt”. Modern Ghana. 2017-03-15. Retrieved 2024-08-30.

[13] “My classroom is a bigger place’: Examining the impact of a professional development course on the global perspective of experienced teachers”. ResearchGate. June 2013. Retrieved on 12th March 2024

[14] “Trickle down mathematics: Adult pre-service elementary teachers gain confidence in mathematics – enough to pass it along?”. Retrieved 12th March 2024

[15] Ashun, M. (2021-03-25). The issue of ‘the other’ when it comes to school admissions: The case of Achimota School and Rastafarian students. Retrieved 12th March 2024

[16] ‘Short Biography.’ Dr. Mary Ashun. September 2023 (furnished PELÉ by the author).

[17] “Dr Mary Ashun”. Retrieved 12th March 2024

[18] Dr. Mary Ashun. WhatsApp interaction with PELÉ on 22nd March, 2024

[19] Bannerman, E. (2022-10-04). GIS holds 6th Time Educators Conference. Myjoyonline. Retrieved 12th March 2024.

[20] Richter-Anderson, M. (2023-05-30). Ghana International School poised to make an impact in Ghana and beyond – Principal discloses Retrieved 12th March 2024

[21] Okertchiri, J. A. (2017-09-09) GIS Principal Raises Funds for Charities. Daily Guide Network. Retrieved 12th March 2024

[22] Ibrahim, A. (2023-05-17). Ghana’s Mary Ashun named Top 10 finalist for Africa Education Medal 2023.

[23] Principal, Dr. Mary Ashun wins Excellent Educator Award 27th June 2024. GIS. Retrieved 11th March 2024

[24] Felicia (2014-06-24). “GIS Principal receives distinguished Klingenstein School Heads Fellowship”. GIS. Retrieved 10th March 2024

[25] Dr. Mary Ashun. Global Education Council. BETT. See

[26] Andah, Aba Cato & Zoe Baraka. 2023. Letters of Hope to My Younger Self. Triple A Press, p. 65.

[27] Dr. Mary Ashun. WhatsApp interaction with PELÉ on 22nd March, 2024.



50 Inspiring Living Leaders

This 50 Inspiring Living Leaders series highlights current influencers who are succeeding in leadership, integrity, family or entrepreneurship in whatever field and exhibit most, if not all, of our values of PELÉ. We value people, growth, particularity, excellence, success, authenticity and significance. These stories are largely written in terms of growth, success and significance in leadership, integrity, family and  entrepreneurship. While we do our best to receive personal references about each leader, most of our research and writing is based on literature review of publicly-available information. As authorities in leadership, we are fully aware that there is no such thing as a perfect leader, and leaders may have their flaws, but we choose to celebrate these inspiring living leaders for their achievements outlined in our series. Having said that, should you happen to have any incontrovertible evidence that any of our featured leaders does not fit our bill of an authentic leader, please write to us at Our vision at PELÉ is a flourishing global ecosystem of authentic leaders characterised by healthy growth, holistic success and lasting significance.

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