Just 10 months ago, God planted a seemingly impossible idea in Nicky Brand’s heart.
For years, she had worked with orphaned and disadvantaged girls in the city of Jos, Nigeria. But when her girls moved into their new transition house, in a more rural location, about a year ago, the team quickly discovered the local school opportunities were not up to scratch.
Nicky (pictured centre right) realised the only option was to set something up herself, so the more academically able would be able to fulfil their potential.
From that idea, Integrity High School was born and is now just starting its second term. Incredibly, from the initial plans to opening took just four months!
Nicky, who is sent by Gateway Baptist Church, Burgess Hill in Sussex, said: “We prayer-walked the whole site, asking God to guide and provide for our needs and we have seen those prayers miraculously answered.
“It’s had a huge impact on the faith of the girls and has really helped them see how God is honouring them. The whole project has become a great teaching tool for us. We really feel God has led us every step of the way and what has happened has been truly miraculous.”
The original intention was to build a vocational training centre for those who had missed out on early schooling or were not as academically gifted but God showed Nicky she could combine that with a more traditional school.
Some of the start-up money came from a wealthy Nigerian businessman, but Nicky has also accessed funding from America and the UK.
The school began last September with 26 girls in Junior High (school years 7 to 9 in the UK system) being taught by four staff. That means just 6–9 pupils in a class in a country where class sizes can be 100 or more.
There are two streams — one for those who are academically able and the other for those more suited to vocational training. The girls are sometimes taught together for subjects like PE, discipleship and life skills and they can switch between the streams.
There are four classrooms, plus a hair salon, a home economics room, a sewing room and a computer room. The second storey has a main hall, and will have both a science lab and a library as soon as funds allow.
Nicky has literally had to start from scratch — designing a uniform and logo, writing a mission statement, buying extra land for a sports pitch and making sure there are the right number of toilets! She has also taught a home economics class, both to fill a need and to model good practice.
Nicky said: “We have been so blessed with this project. When we bought the land for the school, we didn’t realise it was so fertile.
"In response to an appeal in one of my newsletters for ‘someone to come and help with farming’ a man from one of my supporting churches came forward. He’d just lost his job after spending most of his life teaching farming.
“The church sent him to Zimbabwe to get training on techniques in Africa and he’s now been out three times in 18 months to train and help us — a huge, miraculous answer to prayer! We’ve also been joined by a new SIM family from the USA, who are special needs teachers and helping train our teachers and give them ideas.”
Another huge source of blessing is Francisca Adebayou, who comes from Lagos, and is Nicky’s assistant.
Nicky said: “She came to work with us as part of her national service after graduating with a degree in chemistry education.
“She’s been with me for three years and is great at navigating the Nigerian education system as well as being a very gifted teacher and a good leader.
“Francisca has been doing an excellent job — running a school is definitely not a one-person job!”
The gospel is firmly embedded in school life, with regular Bible studies and daily assemblies and prayers.
Nicky says: “We will strive for integrity in all we do. Corruption is a big problem in Nigeria and we want to demonstrate there is another way of doing things.
“Our first term was hectic but awesome — the girls are loving having their own school and the standards are improving. The vocational girls in particular are really growing in confidence and loving being in school with their sisters.
“We had exams at the end of term and presentations for hard work. The girls were so happy and thankful to God for giving them their own school.”
Nicky now aims to complete the building and fit-out of the remaining rooms and then start to expand the school slowly. The intention is that it will be self-sustaining, using a combination of donations from supporters and income from fee-paying students.
But, as Nicky well knows, the school’s future is in God’s hands.
She said: “I can see how God has brought me full circle. I never came here to teach and start a school but I am qualified and know what I am doing and can now work within the culture.
“It’s a good job I don’t know what God has in store for me! It’s definitely one day at a time, in his strength and always for his glory.”
For more teachers to be raised up for Integrity High School and for additional funding.
For God to bless Nicky with strength, imagination and creativity as she works out how best to develop Integrity High School in the coming months.
For the pupils in both streams to feel fully part of the school and enjoy learning together.