A Black boy who lost his finger “fleeing bullies” at school was called the N-word among other slurs in the weeks leading up to the attack, his mother has said.
Raheem Bailey, 11, was allegedly beaten by a group of children at school last Tuesday and broke his finger while climbing a fence to escape his tormentors, Shantal Bailey told The Independent. At hospital doctors decided that the finger had to be amputated.
Police are now investigating a report of an assault on Raheem at the secondary school, and the school trust closed all of its campuses on Monday.
Ms Bailey said her son had faced “racial and physical abuse” since he started secondary school at Abertillery Learning Community in south Wales in September.
The mother of four said Raheem was struggling to cope after his ordeal and the family were taking things “one day at a time”.
She said: “Raheem, he’s up and down, and has gone through so many different stages. He keeps on asking me, ‘mummy, is this real?’
“When we were at the hospital, the whole time [he was] telling me, ‘I’m sorry, mummy. I just couldn’t stay there. Why does no one like me?’ These are things that my child, in his agony, is constantly having to ask me.”
The 28-year-old said she was now trying to prepare her son for hard days ahead. “What I didn’t want to do is lie to him or soften it, because that will make things worse when he realises the extent of things,” she added.
“I just made him understand that, no matter what, mummy’s here and will always make sure he’s okay, and we’re going to be fine as a family – but it’s hard.”
Ms Bailey revealed that Raheem had been called the N-word ahead of the incident and was told that he “comes from a poor country” even though he was born in the UK, in addition to being teased about his Afro hair texture, height and appearance.
“I just don’t get how this is happening in 2022. I am baffled how this is happening when we are all human beings, regardless of different skin colour,” she said. “It is sad that Black people have to teach our children that some people won’t like them just because they’re Black.”
The mother said she had complained to school staff on Monday last week after Raheem called her in tears, saying he was threatened with detention, despite being the victim of bullying. She said the school advised her that the matter would be dealt with by the following morning. It was later on that Raheem told his mother he had been beaten that day too.
Then, the next day, Raheem was beaten again by a group of children at morning break time despite teachers’ reassurances, his mother said, resulting in his life-changing injury as he tried to flee the school grounds but caught his finger in a fence.
“My son was suffering to the point where the only option that he felt he had was to run from school, which is meant to be a safe space. Teachers should have been checking on him, especially given that I was there on Monday,” Ms Bailey said.
Staff members at the school informed Ms Bailey of the incident and, upon her arrival, advised her that an ambulance wouldn’t arrive for two hours. So they were taken to A&E in the school bus and dropped at a minor injuries unit, “despite them knowing that his injury was severe”, Ms Bailey explained in a now-viral Instagram post on Thursday.
With her other infant son in arms, Ms Bailey spent the next five hours waiting for an ambulance to transfer Raheem to the hospital 50 miles away in Swansea so he could have surgery.
”The teachers went home to their families while I sat there watching my child in agony,” she said. “I almost had to take myself out of the role of just being mum to being carer, coaching him on breathing techniques and trying to get him to calm down – while trying to be at peace with what’s happening, trusting in God and coming to terms with the fact that he’s likely to lose his finger.
“Then I had to explain that to my 11-year-old boy.”
Nearly £10,000 has now been raised on a GoFundMe page to finance a prosthetic finger for Raheem and his recovery. Ms Bailey said she was “overwhelmed” by the generosity.
The boxer Anthony Joshua, the rapper Giggs and the footballer Jadon Sancho are among those who have sent messages of support to Raheem since the incident.
Ms Bailey said she was determined to pursue justice for Raheem. “When I wrote the Instagram post, I took my time because I didn’t want to come across as an angry Black woman, which is how we’re sometimes labelled when we express ourselves,” she said.
“I wanted to tell the story of what it was, what happened to Raheem at school while he was in teachers’ care. I just want justice for my son and for that to be addressed. If something like this had happened to me, I wouldn’t speak out publicly about it, because I am soft. But when it comes to my children, I’m not having it. I had to speak out for Raheem.”
“I’m utterly ashamed of the school and the children who were taught by the adults around them that racism, prejudice and bullying are okay.”
Organisations such as The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign have condemned Raheem’s reported treatment, urging schools to do more to tackle discrimination, a rallying cry that Ms Bailey firmly supports.
“Children aren’t born racist – it is something that’s taught. If children are being exposed to this hate, they will say and act upon the things that they hear parents or adults around them saying,” the mother said.
“That’s the reason why these behaviours are going into schools and affecting children who did nothing other than be born Black. I never want any of my children, or any child, starting to question and dislike themselves as a result. It creates so many mental health issues.”
Ms Bailey, who was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK aged seven in 2001, experienced bullying herself when she was at secondary school.
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said the school was working with Gwent Police to establish what happened.
It said in a statement: “All campuses at Abertillery Learning Community will be closed (on Monday) on health and safety grounds. Learners will access blended learning.
“The safety and well-being of learners and staff remains of paramount importance to the Learning Community and the local authority at all times.”
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