190816 Zakiya Omran
Zakiya Omran Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The longest-serving teacher for UAE-based GEMS Education passed away on Thursday after a long illness.

Zakiya Omran, originally from Palestine, had recently retired as an Arabic Supervisor from Our Own English High School Sharjah (OOEHS Sharjah), after serving more than 44 years at GEMS Education, the UAE’s largest private school group.

Omran passed away with her family by her side. She was 69.

Her death has rocked the GEMS Education community, where Omran was a much-loved member of staff.

‘Pillar of our society’

Sunny Varkey, Chairman and Founder, GEMS Education, said: “Our deepest condolences go out to Zakiya’s family. She was a big part of the GEMS Education community and a pillar of our society. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by all.”

Asma Gilani, principal of the Indian-curriculum OOEHS Sharjah, said Omran had joined GEMS as a young Arabic teacher in 1972 at its first school in Bastakiya, Dubai. Her journey of growth and learning is closely twined with the history of GEMS, she added. In 1991, Omran joined OOEHS Sharjah, which teaches 8,000 students.

Gilani said: “We appreciate her deep commitment to her profession and will forever be indebted to her for her valuable contributions in ensuring Arabic became an integral part of every students’ life. She epitomises loyalty and commitment. Her legacy will live on throughout GEMS. She was a passionate teacher who was respected by all. Our hearts go out to her family.”

Originally from Palestine, Zakiya moved to Dubai in 1972 and worked for Mariamma Varkey, Sunny Varkey’s mother, at OOEHS Dubai. She later worked at Cambridge International School, Dubai, where she was Head of Arabic before moving to OOEHS Sharjah, where she served as Arabic Supervisor.

Gilani said Omran’s contributions towards helping expat students learn Arabic were immense.

‘Surprising’ progress

“When we had school inspections, the officials were really surprised our students spoke Arabic so well. [Omran] would also prepare CDs for parents of primary school students so each parent would know how to pronounce the Arabic words; she was a huge support to the parent community,” Gilani said.

“Even for the children coming from India who would join mid-session, she would make special modules for Arabic for beginners. In six months, those students would be able to reach the mainstream level. She worked really hard in encouraging Arabic in day-to-day life.”

Gilani said Omran was the first one to bring out an Arabic newsletter – called Ajial Elghad – at an Indian school, and she also directed an Arabic school play called Al Masera to inspire children to read and speak in Arabic.

‘A great leader’

Omran was also very supportive of colleagues and school staff, who would be comfortable in sharing any personal issues with her, Gilani added.

“She was a great leader, she had a big department of teachers. She mentored and guided them regularly and despite her illness she would come to school with fortitude and a very positive spirit.

“[Omran] had a very sharp intellect, she was a thinker. She kept pace with technology and the times and stayed upgraded to the latest trends in pedagogy. She gave her best to the GEMS community and she will be dearly missed.”