GEMS Our Own Indian School welcomes back its Founding Principal and first Head Boy and Head Girl to celebrates its 30th anniversary
Allow us to take you back to a time when Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was in every cinema and its soundtrack, Everything I do by Bryan Adams, was topping the charts globally (it will be in your head all day now… Sorry!), the Gulf War came to an end, and apartheid was dismantled in South Africa. The year is 1991, and in that same year GEMS Our Own Indian School in Dubai, which was known at the time as Varkey International Private School, began educating Indian children in Dubai.
The school celebrated its landmark with a special virtual event that was attended by more than 700 guests including alumni, parents, students and staff, including OIS Founding Principal Annie George, who shared her unique memories of leading the school in its first eight years. In memory of the late Madam Varkey, the school’s annual prize-giving event, which honours top academic achievement, was named as Ruyat Al’ Um, meaning ‘A Mother’s Vision’.
In addition to the virtual event, a tree-planting ceremony was held, and candles were lit evoking the school’s motto: Lead Kindly Light.
For some, 30 years ago is a hazy distant memory, but Annie, the 84-year-old former principal, remembers it well and fondly. Recalling her time at the school, she gave a special tribute to the late Madam Varkey: “Through my time at Varkey International Private School, I had the good fortune of having many interactions with Madam Varkey. I learned that she was not only tall in stature but held lofty principles. She never compromised on honesty, punctuality and hard work. Her doors were always open, nobody was denied entrance and nobody returned disappointed. She was warm, understanding and generous. My best wishes to the school as it endeavours to keep alive the vision of Madam Varkey.”
Additionally, another of the school’s principals, Aziz Akhtar, as well as the first Head Boy, Ahamed Faisal Abdul Azeez, gave addresses during the two-hour online ceremony.
Ahamed Faisal Abdul Azeez said: “My experiences at school have made me an honest and loyal person, traits that I am proud to have learnt from my teachers at school. Congratulations on 30 years of making education the most powerful tool in the world – we walk boldly because of you.”
The virtual celebration was also attended by the first Head Girl, Manju Mathew, who graduated top of her class in 1993. She shared the positive impact the school had on her personal and professional life, saying: “I was at Varkey International Private School for only one year, but that year was the best of my entire school life. When I was appointed Head Girl I went from being someone who stood in the shadows to being in the limelight, and it made me believe in myself. I learned about leadership, communication, teamwork, responsibility and confidence, all of which has shaped me into who I am today.”
Current Principal/CEO, Lalitha Suresh said: “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and this powerful adage holds true for GEMS Our Own Indian School as we celebrate 30 glorious years of educating young people and shaping minds. The strength of our school has always been its strong staff-student relationships, which is evident in the efforts our staff make to nurture the talents and holistic personality of every child that enters our precincts.
“Students from GEMS Our Own Indian School – Dubai, past and present, emerge as world-class citizens underpinning the values of humility and empathy complemented by outstanding academic success. It is a privilege for me to lead this esteemed institution.”
Senior leaders of the school were also invited to contribute to a commemorative ‘time capsule’ containing notes from 30 staff, as well as handwritten letters from Grade 2 students whose parents are alumni. Weaving the thread of legacy, these Grade 2 students will be in Grade 12 when the capsule is eventually dug up for the school’s 40th anniversary in 10 years’ time.
What life will look like when those students unearth the time capsule they buried, we don’t know, but we do know that OIS will go from strength to strength.