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Experience of Abertillery boy who lost a finger fleeing bullies ‘sickening’ says UK Education Secretary

22 May 2022 4 minutes Read
England’s Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. Picture by James Manning / PA Wire. Rahem Bailey, picture by Shantal Bailey.

UK Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi has recalled being racially abused and bullied at school as a child as he described the experiences of 11-year-old Raheem Bailey as “sickening”.

Shantal Bailey said her son Raheem lost his finger while “fleeing school bullies”, adding he has 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.

Asked about the case, Education Secretary Mr Zahawi, who is in charge of education in England, told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “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, Mr 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.”

‘Caught’

More than £66,000 has now been donated to help Raheem Bailey, after his mother described her son’s plight on a GoFundMe page with a target of £10,000 which she set up to raise money for a prosthetic finger and money to aid his recovery.

In a message on the page, Ms Bailey wrote: “I’m fundraising to get my 11-year-old son, Raheem Bailey, a prosthetic finger and any additional cost to get him on the road to recovery.

“Raheem has faced racial and physical abuse, as well as more generic bullying about his height and other things, since he started secondary school in September 2021.

“Although he had mentioned a few incidents of people being ‘mean to him’ recently, I did not realise the extent of what he was going through until an incident this week.”

She said that as he tried to escape the school grounds during the attack he tried to climb a fence.

“His finger got caught and attached to it, causing the skin to strip and the finger to break in half,” she said.

“After six hours of surgery to save it, which was ultimately unsuccessful, his finger had to be amputated.”

In another message on Facebook, Ms Bailey identified her son’s school and claimed Raheem called her up crying on Monday, saying he was being bullied.

Identifying his son’s school as Abertillery Learning Community, she wrote: “After work I attended the school and informed them that all this needed to stop.

“I was then reassured that everything would be handled by the Tuesday morning,” she added.

The incident 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.”

A spokeswoman for Abertillery Learning Community told Wales Online: “We are currently working closely with Gwent Police and the Local Authority to establish the full details of the incident.

“The well-being and safety of our pupils and staff remains of paramount importance.”

A Gwent Police spokesperson also told the publication: “We received a report of an incident at a school in Abertillery around 1pm on Wednesday, where an 11-year-old boy was injured.

“A multi-agency meeting has taken place and we’re working with the school as part of our ongoing inquiries.”


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