My Late Mother, Jean Kirk, and Her Special Collection of Rare Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visits to the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi

Special to Simerg

BY ALLISON WALLACE
Perth, Australia

Introduction

My mother, Jean Kirk, was born in London in 1928 and died in Tasmania in early January 2014. She lived in London until 1956 when she married my father who had been born in Kenya to English parents, who had settled there in the early 1920’s. 

Mum trained as a teacher in London and was passionate about the importance of education, the communication of knowledge and the enhancement of the individual through such knowledge. During her time in Kenya, she held the position of Principal at the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi where His Highness the Aga Khan on at least one occasion, privileged her to host a visit. Finally, in 1964, my mum and dad migrated to Tasmania where they were to settle for the remainder of their lives.

Mum was to remain in education for the rest of her working life. In terms of her interests she cared deeply for animals and their welfare and her local community.

Shortly after she died, I opened one of her albums and came across a collection of photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visits to the Primary School during her tenure as the school’s principal. At about the same time, my internet search led me to this website containing pictures of the Aga Khan’s visit to the school in 1966. Thus I connected with Simerg, and my sincere hope is that the photos I have provided will trigger happy memories among those who were students and teachers at the school some 50 to 55 years ago! Of course, vintage photos never seen before will also please members of the Ismaili community, and others interested in East African history.

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0458_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan seen being greeted by Jean Kirk, the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Jimmy Verjee, the Education Administrator of Aga Khan Schools in Kenya, is seen alongside the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN 1959

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His Highness the Aga Khan stops by to see the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi, approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan stops to see the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi, approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0472_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan with Mrs. Jean Kirk, the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, during his visit to the school approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, looks on as His Highness the Aga Khan is garlanded during his visit to the school approximately in 1959. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN THE EARLY 1960’S

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His Highness the Aga Khan, centre, with the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and the Education Administrator, Mr. Jimmy Verjee, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0466_001-s-nfKenya’s future President, Daniel Arap Moi, Education Administrator, Jimmy Virjee, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School Jean Kirk, during  the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school, approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, His Highness the Aga Khan and guests enjoy an outdoor event during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, with His Highness the Aga Khan at an outdoor event during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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Students offer a prayer as an indoor event gets underway at the Aga Khan Primary School during His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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School children and guests join His Highness the Aga Khan and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, for an indoor ceremony during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school, approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0457_001-s-nfSchool children and guests join in laughter with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, in an indoor function during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0473_001-s-nfA cross-section photo of boys and girls of the Aga Khan Primary school at an indoor function attended by His Highness the Aga Khan during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Seated at extreme left with hand on chin is Sir Eboo Pirbhai, one of the longest serving Ismaili leaders of the 20th century, and next to him is Daniel Arap Moi who later became Kenya’s President after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and His Highness the Aga Khan observe students as they engage in art-work, during the Ismaili Imam’s visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan with the Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and school teacher Ms. Shireen Kassam (left) during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan keenly watches over the work of a student during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0492_001s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan keenly watches as a student appears to tackle an art assignment during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0456_001-s-nfHis Highness the Aga Khan with a smile on his face watches students as they work with clay during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan partakes of light refreshments during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan being shown notes during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan in a Standard I classroom with class teacher Gulbanu Nanji (daughter of Magan Mawji) during his visit to the Aga Khan Primary School approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, flanked by the Administrator of the Aga Khan Education Board, Mr. Jimmy Verjee, and class teacher Ms. Shireen Kassam, watches several young artists at work, while the Principal of the school, Mrs. Jean Kirk, looks on from behind, during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

0479_001-s-nfAnother cross-section view of boys and girls of the Aga Khan Primary school at an indoor function attended by His Highness the Aga Khan during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Sitting on either side of him are the school‘s Principal, Jean Kirk, and the education administrator, Jimmy Verjee. The fifth person to the right of His Highness in bow tie is the Darkhana Mukhi, Rehmu Verjee. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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The Principal of the Aga Khan Primary School, Mrs. Jean Kirk, and the Aga Khan Education Administrator look on as His Highness the Aga Khan signs the visitors book during his visit to the school approximately in the early 1960’s. Photo: Late Mrs. Jean Kirk Family Collection. Credit: Daughter, Allison Wallace, Australia.

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Date posted: Sunday, May 4 2014.

Photographs: Copyright. Allison Wallace (Perth, Australia).

We acknowledge with deep gratitude the contribution by Allison Wallace in spending many many hours gathering original photos of His Highness the Aga Khan from her mother’s photo albums, and making them available for us in electronic format. Her mother, Mrs. Jean Kirk, as Principal of the Aga Khan Primary led an institution created by the Ismaili Imamat that seeks educational excellence by cultivating great students through hard work and a dedicated and motivated staff. The school prided itself in being among the finest in East Africa during Jean Kirk’s tenure, beloved mother of Allison Wallace.

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About the contributor: Allison Wallace, daughter of the late Mrs. Jean Kirk, holds an administrative position at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

We invite readers to help us complete the photo captions by providing names of teachers and students who have not been identified. Also, we invite you to contribute short anecdotes that you can recount as an eye-witness to these two visits to the school made by His Highness the Aga Khan. Please complete the feedback form below or send an email to Simerg@aol.com.

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