Mariamma Varkey
Mariamma Varkey, mother of Sunny Varkey, founder and chairman of GEMS Education, passed away in Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit:

Dubai: Mariamma Varkey, mother of Sunny Varkey, founder and chairman of GEMS Education, passed away in Dubai on Wednesday, the GEMS Group confirmed to Gulf News.

“We confirm the passing of Madam Mariamma Varkey, the mother of GEMS Education Founder and Chairman Mr Sunny Varkey. Madam Varkey will first and foremost be remembered as a beloved mother and grandmother, but also as a teacher and pioneer in education, whose impact transcends generations. Her humanitarian contributions focused on the learning development of girls and the advancement and recognition of teachers, with her legacy rooted in her unrelenting belief in the power of quality education to better society,” said a GEMS Education Spokesperson in a statement to Gulf News.

GEMS schools also reported receiving emails about her demise.

Widely known as Madam Varkey, 89-year-old Mariamma, was arguably one among the first Indian women to arrive in the UAE and continued to live here.

In 2010, she was named by a Malayalam newspaper as the senior most Keralite woman living in the UAE.

Mariamma is a former teacher from Kerala in India who moved to Dubai with her husband K.S. Varkey in 1959. They founded Our Own English High School in 1968, the first school under the group which was established by the couple’s son Sunny Varkey in 2000.

Mariamma was credited to be a pioneer in teaching who brought in rational change in the education system in the UAE, when it was Trucial States, along with her husband. Among her former students are royal family members in Dubai.

The former primary school teacher believed that good education and proper guidance are the best gifts that parents can offer to their children. “Your education can decide your future,” she had said in previous interviews.

Mariamma, was fondly known as Ammachi (meaning mother in the dialect of Keralite Christians) among thousands of her employees, especially the old-timers with whom she shared a special bond.

In 2016, Mariamma Varkey Award for Inspirational and Outstanding Teaching at GEMS was instituted in honour of the founder of GEMS Education’s first school. The annual award distribution used to coincide with the World Teachers’ Day that falls on October 5.

In a condolence message, Dubai Mar Thoma Parish said Mariamma's husband was one of the founders of the church,

"On behalf of the Dubai Mar Thoma Parish, we offer our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family members and let us pray for heavenly peace and comfort at this time of grief," the Parish added.