The education minister said an alleged bullying incident in which an 11-year-old boy lost a finger was “sick” – as he spoke of his own ordeal of being bullied as a child.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News he’s determined to “quench” racism in schools after the youngster Raheem Bailey’s finger amputated following an alleged attack by a group of children in South Wales.
The 54-year-old cabinet minister said he suffered bullying and racial abuse after moving to the UK from Iraq as a child.
In one incident, he said he was thrown into a pond by bullies and then “dumped” his head in the water as “amusement”.
Shantal Bailey, Raheem’s mother, said her son was beaten, kicked and pushed to the ground by a group of children earlier this week.
Ms Bailey said the boy tried to escape but got his finger stuck while climbing the fence, and then had to be amputated.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Zahawi said the alleged incident was “sick” and “we always need to do more” to tackle racism and bullying.
“I was bullied when I first set foot on these shores,” he said.
“I can’t speak English and it’s difficult.
“I remember my first experience, my first school being the Dutch Park School, being chased around the park as amusement for the older boys and then throwing me in a pond, drowning my head. down the pond.
“Pretty horrible for a kid who just got to these shores.”
Mr Zahawi said he did not know if there was a racist element to the bullying he suffered.
“That was a long time ago, but I’ve certainly received other racist slurs,” he added.
“I was called ap*ki at school and I had to explain if they mean I’m from Pakistan, I’m not from Pakistan. Actually I’m from a place called Iraq and I’m of Kurdish descent. It called Kurdistan.
“It’s a terrible thing and I’m determined to stamp it out, because I’m determined to stamp out anti-Semitism in our schools or in our universities.
“There is no place for racism anywhere in our society, let alone education.”
Raheem’s mother said her son has faced “racial and physical abuse” as well as bullying for his height since he started high school at the Abertillery Learning Community in the south. Wales in September.
She described his plight on the GoFundMe page with a £10,000 goal she set up to raise money for a prosthetic finger and money to help him recover. It has now raised more than £73,000.
An Abertillery Learning Community spokesman told Wales Online: “We are currently working closely with Gwent Police and the Local Government to establish full details of the incident.
“The health and safety of our students and staff remains paramount.”