UAE: Pakistani teacher retires from Indian curriculum school after 37 years

The expat from Lahore has fond memories of Mariamma Varkey, founder of the first GEMS school in Dubai


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2022, 6:42 PM

Last updated: Sat 18 Jun 2022, 10:51 PM

One of Dubai's longest-serving school teachers is retiring after 37 years of working in the same school and for seven different principals.

Pakistani expatriate Ghazala Dar, who taught Urdu and Islamic Studies at an Indian curriculum school for over three decades, is bidding adieu to GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai, on June 30.

"I leave with a heavy yet very content and happy heart. The experience has been unlike anything else," said Ghazala.

"I completed my graduation in Pakistan and did my bachelor in education (B.Ed) from there as well. I worked in a semi-government school as a primary teacher for two years. After my marriage, my husband and I moved to the UAE," she told Khaleej Times.

The Lahore-native arrived in the UAE in 1981. Though she had interviewed with then school principal Professor Varghese, she officially joined the school as an Urdu and Islamic studies teacher on November 13, 1984. "I couldn't join in 1981 since I was pregnant with my first child. After she grew old enough, I came back for an interview and joined the school when I was 28," said Ghazala.

When Ghazala walked into the school campus for the first time, the construction of the school's Oud Metha campus was ongoing. "In 1984, the foundation of the school was being built. He was working out of an old portacabin."

Ghazala would see Mariamma Varkey, the founder of the first GEMS school, interact and oversee discipline on the school campus. "She would hold a cane and monitor the discipline of students on campus. I will never forget the influence she had on us."

She said madam Varkey had a very loving and motherly attitude and was a caring motherly attitude. "The family (Varkey) has been so generous. They showered us with a lot of love and respect. They have remained humble, and they took such good care of us," she added.

The teacher also said the school has always remained special for her. "Right from the time the new buildings were built until the time of teaching during the pandemic, my experiences here have only been extremely fulfilling. I have learnt so much with the students," said Ghazala.

Though Ghazala had the opportunity to join a school run by the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi, she chose to stay back at her school. "Once you settle down here, it is impossible to leave. I felt I was at home. I knew I would not get it anywhere else with security and comfort.

Ghazala said about her teaching experiences during the pandemic, "I learnt how to become proficient in online teaching methodologies. Even before the pandemic, we were given training on how to use technology in our teaching. I grew up with the students," she added.

She also thanked her principal, Thomas Mathew, for his support during the tough time.

The mother of four said all her children graduated from the school she is retiring. "I have three daughters and one son. They have all found success in their line of work. My oldest daughter works for Deloitte in the UK. My second one is a doctor, and she works as a physician-scientist at MIT Boston, my third daughter is a teacher in Saudi Arabia, and my son works here in the UAE," said a proud Ghazala.

Moreover, this is not Ghazala's first interview with Khaleej Times. She was in the news when GEMS Our Own English High School Dubai celebrated its golden jubilee in 2018. At that time, three generations of their family – Ghazala, her daughter Sidra Rashid, and granddaughter Areej Fatima – were studying and teaching in the school group.


Ghazala remains in touch with her students and does not intend to retire or do anything. I am a writer and part of the Urdu writers club. I want to pursue writing."

"I look forward to doing more such work when I leave," she added.

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