Maliyekkal Mariyumma, the first Muslim woman in North Kerala to get English education, dies at 95

The first Muslim woman in northern Kerala to receive an English education, Malikal Maryuma, died on Friday in Thalassery, Kannur district. She was 95 years old.

Mariuma has been an icon of English language education among Muslims in northern Kerala, and has been an inspiration for generations.

Condolences on Marioma’s death, Prime Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “We have lost someone who left his indelible mark along with Thalassery history. She defied the barriers of conservatism, learned English and thus became a guiding resource for others. She fought for the educational rights of Muslim girls.” Always a progressive face, she was also a symbol of religious harmony. Her death plunges a generation and a region into grief.”

Born in 1927, Maryam belongs to one of the prominent Muslim families in Thalassery. After completing her lower primary education, she attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in Thalassery for further studies. She was the only Muslim girl among the 200 students in the school, which was founded in 1886. She studied the English alphabet in the fifth class.

Later, she remembered that she did not understand English, so her father consoled her and encouraged her to continue studying. In the afternoon, she would go to a relative’s house for namaz. Realizing this, the nuns arranged a facility for her prayer at school. She remembered how the nuns had created a love of the English language in her mind.

The Muslim community had resented the girl who went to school to learn English in a burqa. She faced humiliation from her community but her father Abdullah, a religious scholar, stood with her and encouraged her to continue teaching English.

Abdullah studied only until the second grade, but he used to read and write in English. Mary continued her education in the monastery until 1943, the year in which she got married after completing the Fifth Forum (10th grade).

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After marriage, she was associated with Muslim Mahila Samajam to continue her social work. Later, she focused on activities aimed at empowering women.

Mariuma was an avid reader of the English language, which is why locals used to call her in English Mariuma. The image of Maryam reading English daily inspired hundreds of Muslim girls to continue their education.

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