Zahawi spoke out after school boy Raheem Bailey lost a finger while trying to escape from bullies. (Photo: James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images)
Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi has spoken out about how he was dunked in a pond and racially abused by bullies when he was at school.
The education secretary, who came to the UK after fleeing from Iraq, said the experience was “pretty horrific for a child who has just arrived on these shores”.
Zahawi spoke about his own experience after he was asked about the case of 11-year-old Raheem Bailey, who lost his finger while trying to escape from bullies.
His mother, Shantal Bailey, said her son got his finger caught in a fence while trying to escape bullies. His finger then had to be amputated.
Zahawi described Raheem’s treatment as “sickening”.
Bailey said her son has endured “racial and physical abuse” as well as taunts about his height since he started secondary school at Abertillery Learning Community in South Wales in September, according to his mother.
Asked about Raheem’s case on Sky News, Zahawi, told presenter Sophy Ridge: “It’s sickening, we always need to do more.
“I suffered bullying when I first arrived on these shores.
“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, Zahawi replied: “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.”
The Welsh government has released a statement since Raheem’s case came to light.
It read: “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.”
A spokeswoman for Abertillery Learning Community said the school was working close with Gwent Police and the local council to establish what happened.
“The wellbeing and safety of our pupils and staff remains of paramount importance,” the spokeswoman said.
More than £79,000 has been donated to the school boy via a GoFundMe page set up by his mother to raise money for a prosthetic finger and his recovery.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.