New Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa reveals plans to use acting success to build school in Rwanda

New Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa has revealed he plans to use his acting success to build a school in Rwanda.

When screenwriter Russell T Davies revealed the Rwandan-Scot was to become the new Tardis-travelling Time Lord, he was proud to announce of Ncuti: “The future is here.” But the big-hearted actor has the future of a new generation of youngsters on his mind.

Ncuti, 29, was born in Rwanda but when he was just two years old he fled the east African country with his family to escape the brutal civil war.

He came to Scotland as a refugee and grew up in Edinburgh and Fife.

Now he wants to help many of the nation’s most disadvantaged children in the country of his birth have a better future and fulfill their dreams.

Ncuti, who is best known for his role in Netflix hit Sex Education, said: “I want to build a school in Rwanda. There’s so many amazing fresh young minds in Africa that need nourishment from outside.

Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T Davies

“There’s a new generation forming and I feel like they need those of us who have left and made money in the west – they need our help.

“I met so many young amazing kids in Rwanda when I went back and they just had so many amazing ideas – great entrepreneurial minds. I feel, ‘Where is the support?’ I want to help.”

Ncuti was deeply affected by what he saw in Rwanda the first time he traveled back there, as a teenager.

He said: “I was born in Rwanda – my parents are Rwandese – then came over to the UK when things there started to get a little bit crazy.

“I grew up in Scotland from when I was two and didn’t remember Rwanda from when I was born there.

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“The first time I went back after leaving as a baby was when I was 15.

“When you go back to the place you were born, something very special happens.”

Ncuti, who didn’t return to Rwanda for another 12 years, now wants to do all he can to help youngsters there.

And he’s following in the footsteps of his parents, inspired by their altruistic ambitions.

His mum Josephine, an administration clerk, and dad Tharcisse, a theological publisher, are trustees of Mission Rwanda, a Scottish-based charity that was set up in 2008 to help those living in poverty.

The charity states: “Our focus is on children and enabling their families to support themselves.

“We send children to school, we feed malnourished children and help their families to generate regular income.

“We also help women set themselves up in business to be able to feed their families.”

Projects the charity runs include working with street children from the rough city suburb of Nyarugenge, in the capital Kigali, where Ncuti was born.

Other initiatives the charity has set up include the Porridge Project, which provides a daily meal for underfed children in the Rutonde and Rimwe districts.

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As part of the project, goats and rabbits have also been gifted to some of the poorest families in the two areas, to provide a source of income as well as food.

The charity, which lists Ncuti’s parents among its five trustees, receives support from individuals and groups, including the congregation of Loanhead Parish Church.

The Midlothian church sponsors some of the children helped by Mission Rwanda to attend school, has bought a cow to help provide milk and income for one community and even makes baby jumpers and other knitwear to keep the youngsters warm. Despite raising an income of only about £5000 a year, the charity has helped mothers in Rwanda transform their children’s lives by setting up their own small companies selling everything from shoes and DVDs to potatoes.

The charity helped one widow create a business where she hires out marquees for weddings.

It has also gifted sewing machines to several other women, who now provide for their families by making and selling clothes and bags.

Ncuti, who attended Boroughmuir High School and Dunfermline High School before moving to Glasgow to study acting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, has spoken of his pride at growing up as both Scottish and Rwandan.

But said his Scottish accent was a hindrance when it came to pronouncing his own name.

He said: “The spelling of my name is Ncuti. There is an N there – I don’t know why.

“It’s pronounced N-shooti – officially you are supposed to pronounce the N.

“Growing up in Scotland, I could never get my mouth around it, so I just said Shooti and it stuck as Shooti.”

In 2019 Ncuti admitted he had encountered racism growing up in Scotland and rarely met any other people who looked like him.

He told the BBC Scotland documentary Black And Scottish: “I definitely felt growing up that I wasn’t seen as the same as anyone around me because no one around me looked like me. I remember my mum being like, ‘Everyone looks the same.’ She traveled all around Edinburgh trying to find someone that was black and she couldn’t see anyone.

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role models? There were no black Scottish role models. I felt like I was the only black person in the world.”

Ncuti will take over from Jodie Whittaker and become the 14th Doctor later this year in the traditional regeneration scene, with his first series of the iconic series to be shown in 2023.

He will become the fourth Scottish Doctor Who, following Sylvester McCoy, David Tennant and Peter Capaldi.

Ncuti told The Reggie Yates Podcast he had become famous “overnight” after the success of his role as Eric in Sex Education.

He said: “I was coming back from New York and the first series of Sex Education dropped as I was getting on the plane. When I got off the plane, my Instagram looked very different.

“I’d had something like 600 followers when I got on the plane and I don’t remember the exact number but I ended up having hundreds of thousands by the end of that one flight.

“It was mad. It’s still something I’m getting my head around. It was very much overnight.

“One minute you are in Tesco and the next thing you know someone is coming up to you and asking for a picture.

“It’s not normal life – people knowing who you are. It’s weird and still very foreign to me.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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