The world has lost a gem, who had dedicated her whole life to the betterment of others through education. Mariamma Varkey, the education pioneer and founder of the first GEMS school, passed away in Dubai on Wednesday. She was 89 and had been bed-ridden for several years.

Varkey's passing was condoled by many, including the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who paid a heartfelt tribute to Varkey and highlighted her significant contributions to the UAE's education system.

"Mariamma Varkey moved to Dubai with her husband in 1959. Driven by an enduring passion for education, she started tens of schools with thousands of students inside and Outside UAE . Mariamma recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy of education in UAE and beyond," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote in a Facebook post.

Who is Mariamma Varkey; Dubai ruler pays heartfelt tribute to eduction pioneer
Who is Mariamma Varkey; Dubai ruler pays heartfelt tribute to eduction pioneerFacebook photo section

According to Khaleej Times, Varkey's funeral rites would be performed at Jebel Ali Marthoma church on Monday.

Who was Mariamma Varkey?

Mariamma Varkey hailed from Kerala before she moved to Dubai with her late husband KS Varkey in 1959. They both founded Our Own English High School in 1968. Despite leaving Kerala, Varkey remained connected to her native, where she supported and served underprivileged communities in India. Varkey's contribution to the UAE education system is immense and many of her former students are members of the royal family in Dubai.

GEMS Education

"It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Madam Mariamma Varkey ... grandmother and great-grandmother, educator, pioneer and humanitarian. Madam Varkey was a visionary educator who believed that every child deserved a great education. Driven by her enduring passion for teaching, and together with her husband, she built a legacy of education and learning in the UAE and beyond. This legacy will live on in the hearts of not only her family, but also every student that has passed through a Gems classroom in the past 60 years," the Varkey family said in a statement.

Varkey is survived by her son Sunny Varkey, who is the GEMS group founder and chairman. Sunny had first taken over the operations of Our Own English High School in 1980.