Nadhim Zahawi: I was bullied at school for being ‘different’

·2-min read
Nadhim Zahawi (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Nadhim Zahawi (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Nadhim Zahawi has revealed bullies dunked his head in a pond after he arrived in this country from Iraq as a child.

The Education Secretary, who moved to England at the age of 11, said he was called a “p*ki” by other children and felt “anger, confusion and unfairness”.

He spoke out to raise awareness of the “Don’t Face It Alone campaign, led by the Diana Award. The campaign, which starts on Wednesday, urges people to speak out against bullying.

Writing on Twitter he said: “As many people know, I moved to this country aged 11, unable to speak a word of English. Some of my first school experiences involved being called a ‘p*ki’ and even having my head dunked in a pond by bigger kids as entertainment.

“It’s time to talk about bullying.

“Coming to this country was hard, and yes, some kids could be cruel. Being a child from Iraq, I was seen as ‘different’.

“It’s hard to describe how I felt - anger, confusion, unfairness. Looking back, I didn’t know how to handle these feelings and emotions.”

But he said sharing the problem made his life easier and urged other people to speak out against bullying in order to make a change.

He said: “One of the greatest things about our country is the people!  I often say to others, if you share your problem, regardless of what it is, people are always there to help. And this applies to bullying too.

“In fact, it’s by sharing problems that I managed to move forward and settle. I’m here to tell you that it does get better.   I have to pinch myself each morning when I look at what this country has given me.

“It’s never easy to open up about these experiences, and it still isn’t.   But as Secretary of State for Education, it’s something I hope to raise awareness about and make a change.”

As a child, Mr Zahawi was forced to flee Iraq with his family and he grew up in Sussex.

He said the government has provided more than £2million to anti-bullying organisations, including the Diana Award. He is also a “strong supporter” of respect being taught in Relationship, Sex and Health Education classes.

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