Pioneering Kerala teacher who inspired Global Teacher Prize dies

Aditi Khanna
·2-min read

London, Apr 2 (PTI) Mariamma Varkey, a Kerala teacher who was the inspiration behind the annual Global Teacher Prize, has died aged 89, her son and UAE-based entrepreneur Sunny Varkey said on Friday.

Mariamma Varkey is credited as a pioneer in teaching who, along with husband K S Varkey transformed the education system in the UAE upon their migration from Kerala.

They taught English to local Arab children and even counted royal family members of Dubai among their former students.

Responding to the increased demand for an English-language education for the children of Indian expatriates, the Varkey family founded “Our Own English High School” in Dubai in 1968 to teach children of all nationalities and religions.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Mariamma. Though she may be gone, her spirit of peace and tolerance will live on within me always,” said Sunny Varkey, Founder of GEMS Education and the Global Teacher Prize, inspired by his mother.

“I am proud that the respect with which my mother and father were held was the inspiration for the Global Teacher Prize, which we set up to shine a spotlight on the work that teachers do every day to transform lives. I intend to continue to honour my mother’s great legacy by doing everything I can to ensure all the world’s children receive their birthright of a good education,” he said.

He said his mother's passion for teaching was driven by her belief that all children need to be nurtured and encouraged and was fondly known as Ammachi, meaning mother, among thousands of her employees.

The school set up by the Varkeys was the seed that grew into the GEMS Education network, founded in 1980, now operating and managing over 250 schools globally.

It was his mother’s passion for her profession and her wish to see all children, no matter their background, receive a quality education, that led Sunny Varkey to establish the annual USD 1-million Global Teacher Prize.

The most recent winner of the Global Teacher Prize is Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale, who has helped to transform girls’ education in his school in Maharashtra. He was selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

“Mrs Varkey’s life, so wholly dedicated to teaching, is the perfect example of a life well-lived. She is a great role model to all of us who have the good fortune to take part in this most noble of professions,” said Disale.

The Varkeys had moved to the UAE in 1959, at a time when the discovery of oil in Dubai began a significant influx of foreign workers, including many from the Indian subcontinent. PTI AK NSA NSA NSA