Dubai: Mariamma Varkey, mother of Sunny Varkey, founder and chairman of GEMS Education, died in Dubai on Wednesday, the GEMS group confirmed to Gulf News.
“We confirm the passing of Ms. Mariamma Varkey, the mother of the founder and president of GEMS Education, Mr. Sunny Varkey. Ms. Varkey will be remembered first and foremost as a beloved mother and grandmother, but also as a teacher and educational pioneer, whose impact transcends generations. Her humanitarian contributions have focused on developing girls’ learning and promoting and recognizing teachers, with her legacy rooted in her relentless belief in the power of quality education for a better society, ”said one spokesperson for GEMS Education in a statement to Gulf News.
GEMS schools have also reported receiving emails about his disappearance.
Known as Madame Varkey, 89-year-old Mariamma was arguably one of the first Indian women to arrive and live in the UAE.
In 2010, she was named by a Malayalam newspaper the oldest Keralite woman living in the United Arab Emirates.
Mariamma is a former teacher from Kerala, India who moved to Dubai with her husband KS Varkey in 1959. They founded Our Own English High School in 1968, the group’s first school which was established by couple’s son Sunny Varkey in 2000.
Mariamma was recognized as an educational pioneer who brought about a rational change in the education system of the UAE, when it was Trucial States, along with her husband. Among his former students are members of the royal family in Dubai.
The former schoolteacher believed that a good education and proper counseling are the best gifts parents can give their children. “Your education can decide your future,” she had said in previous interviews.
Mariamma, was affectionately known as Ammachi (meaning mother in the dialect of Keralite Christians) among thousands of her employees, especially elders with whom she shared a special bond.
In 2016, the Mariamma Varkey Award for Inspirational and Outstanding Teaching at GEMS was instituted in honor of the founder of the first school of GEMS Education. The annual award distribution coincided with World Teachers’ Day which falls on October 5.
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In a condolence message, Dubai Parish Mar Thoma said Mariamma’s husband was one of the founders of the church,
“On behalf of Dubai Mar Thoma Parish, we offer our sincere condolences to the bereaved family members and pray for heavenly peace and comfort in this time of mourning,” the parish added.