Gratia's Story

I want to be a teacher and teach children songs

Eight-year-old Gratia wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Bright, happy and full of life, she is always out playing with her friends or tending the community garden.

It’s hard to imagine that when Gratia arrived at SOS Children’s Village Kayonza, Rwanda at the age of seven, she couldn’t speak or dress herself, and she didn’t know how to use a pencil.

Gratia’s life before being part of an SOS family and school had been incredibly hard. When she was just one month old her father died. And because he was the main breadwinner, this left Gratia’s mum and five brothers and sisters in extreme poverty, not knowing where the next meal would come from.

A year later, as Gratia was learning to walk, their mother left them, unable to cope on her own. Without an adult to look after the children, Gratia’s eldest brother became the new head of the family. At just 12 years old he had to start looking after his brothers and sisters.

The children lived alone for more than five years, fending for themselves, never having enough to eat. Sometimes neighbours gave them food but they didn’t have enough money to look after all of them properly and it started to become obvious from how thin the children were, the burden of such a big family was too much for Gratia’s brother.

Community elders referred them to the local social services who in turn contacted SOS Children’s Villages. The three youngest children were placed with SOS Children’s Villages Kayonza, with Gratia’s oldest siblings going into the care of their local community.

Gratia’s teacher says: “In the beginning, Gratia was very quiet – she wouldn’t talk to either her SOS Mother or the SOS Family. She wasn’t sociable and found it difficult to communicate or play with other children.”

But within a year all that changed and now with the help of her teachers, Gratia is making huge progress. She is much more confident, her speech has improved and her writing is getting better; she sings and dances and plays hide and seek.

Education is changing Gratia’s life.

Now she has the chance to imagine what she might want to be when she grows up.

She says: “When I become a teacher, I would like to teach children songs and how to behave in class.

*Gratia’s name has been changed