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Nadhim Zahawi recalls being racially abused at school in response to experience of Raheem Bailey, 11

STRATFORD MP Nadhim Zahawi has described how he was racially abused during his school days and had his head dunked in a pond by bullies.

The Education Secretary spoke about his experiences following the case of 11-year-old Raheem Bailey, a boy who made national headlines after losing his finger while “fleeing school bullies” in South Wales.

Mr Zahawi, whose family fled Iraq for the UK when he was a child, said: “I suffered bullying when I first arrived on these shores.

Nadhim Zahawi (51309816)
Nadhim Zahawi (51309816)

“I couldn’t speak English and it was hard, I remember my first experience… being chased around the park as a sort of entertainment for bigger boys and then throwing me in the pond or dunking my head down in the pond, pretty horrific for a child who has just arrived on these shores.”

Asked if there was a racist element to the bullying, Mr Zahawi continued: “I don’t know, it was a long time ago but I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of other racist slurs, words, whatever – I was called a ‘Paki’ at school, I had to explain they mean I’m from Pakistan, I’m not from Pakistan, I’m actually from a place called Iraq and I’m Kurdish of origin, it’s called Kurdistan.

“It’s a horrible thing and I’m determined to stamp it out, as I’m determined to stamp out antisemitism in our schools or in our universities. There’s no place for racism anywhere in our society, let alone in education.”

Shantal Bailey, Raheem’s mother, said her son lost his finger when he got it caught while climbing a fence to escape his tormentors. The finger later had to be amputated.

She said Raheem had been facing “racial and physical abuse” as well as being bullied about his height since he started secondary school at Abertillery Learning Community in September.

The school, which is in Abertillery about 20 miles north of Cardiff, said it was working with police and the local authority.

A spokeswoman for Abertillery Learning Community said: “The wellbeing and safety of our pupils and staff remains of paramount importance.”

More than £79,000 has been donated to Raheem via a GoFundMe page which his mother set up to raise money for a prosthetic finger and money to aid his recovery.

Raheem’s case prompted the Welsh Government to release a statement, saying: “We condemn bullying and racial harassment in any form and expect allegations and incidents of bullying and racism to be fully investigated by schools with appropriate action taken to address the matter and prevent further instances from happening.

“We understand that this incident is being investigated by the school and the local authority, and that Gwent Police are involved and carrying out an investigation.”

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