A website dedicated to photographs and videos from Canada and around the world with an emphasis on nature, wildlife, food, travel and sport as well as art, architecture and culture. In culture, the focus will be on projects related to the work of His Highness the Aga Khan, his Ismaili Muslim community and Islam in general.
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
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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PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN 1959
PHOTOS TAKEN APPROXIMATELY IN THE EARLY 1960’S
Date posted: Sunday, May 4 2014. Last updated: March 6, 2021 (reformatting as per enhancements)
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. ___________
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.
I have very fond memories of attending the Aga Khan Primary. I remember all the teachers in the pictures. Awtar
It was so nice to see our lady principal’s pictures with His Highness the Aga Khan. Her family should fill proud of her accomplishments as an educator. The late Ms. Kirk was a lucky person. May she rest in peace. .
Wow, so interesting, Roshan Virjee was my fuima (dad’s sister). I used to be a Kassam, so these must have been relatives of mine through Roshan who used to be a Kassam too. Thank you for sharing these memorable photos.
I am in Launceston and have been to see the preview of the auction of property of the late Jean Kirk and noticed East African artifacts and cheetah statues, and thought that this lady had ties to Kenya.
The auction is next week on the 27th August.
This led me to google Jean Kirk and found this page . Although I had no connection to the Aga Khan school I was living in Kenya at this time.
I was really touched and saddened going through her things and feel happier now that I found out something of her life. Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alison for these unique photos.
As has already commented – these teachers were the foundations of the way most of us learnt. They instilled in us to have respect for our elders, especially our parents.
Thank you once again, Alison and thank you also SIMERG for this journey into the past.
Dear Alison, this is Robert King from London. Thank you for providing this site with many photos I have not seen before. Regards to you and your family. Robert.
Dear Robert. I have contacted you privately. Thank you so much for responding. Alison
Members of my extended family attended H H Aga Khan Primary School around this period. Our prayers for her soul to Rest In Eternal Peace, Ameen.
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Those three Ismaili teachers including Mrs GulBanu Amirali Nanji were the corner stones of the primary school…I was 13 at that time and just moved into the new Agakhan High School ..but this was our primary school from the day it opened…and apart from the teachers I remember the mural of animals in the front entry.
I was told a little later at a family gathering with my uncle Diwan Sir Eboo, that His Highness the Aga Khan loved that mural and commented on it…
Mrs Amirali, always exceptional, is still amongst us at Lions Gate (in Vancouver) and still a teacher at heart who has transmitted to her grandchildren as well as many others the ethics of our faith and the love for education.
We remember His Highness’ visit to the high school and I’m hoping someone somewhere may have pictures of this.
On the sad side side of this was the fact that Mr. Verjee…perhaps well meaning at that time, along with Mrs Jean Kirk and the principal educators from England put through a policy at that time at both the primary and secondary schools that made my generation lose the writing and reading of our own mother tongue gujerati or kutchi.
We could not speak let along read or write in gujerati …we were reprimanded if we did.
And in the process we lost a whole cultural language and access in gujerati to our ginanic tradition.
Of course the focus on English and French that was part of this policy maybe paid off in subsequent migration to Canada and the US, but the pain of losing a whole cultural tradition still hurts. We all could have been literally multilingual .
Allison, we are ever so grateful to you. Your mother is truly very lucky in having you as a daughter. You must have been her pride and joy. You cherished her belongings and went through them and did your part to make it available to Simerg. May the dedicated principal’s soul rest in eternal peace and you be granted with strength to sustain your loss. She lived a noble life and dedicated herself in serving humanity. She will be a brilliant star in the sky.
I agree with Zahir that these pictures are very precious indeed. As a fellow student of Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi, and the niece of Miss Shirin Kassam who appears in 2 of these photographs, I have strong emotional connections to these memories. Miss Kassam eventually succeeded Mrs Kirk. as Principal of the school. In perusing these photos, much to my delight, I also recognised my late father, Musa Esmail Hajee as a guest in attendance during the Aga Khan’s visit to the school. Further, Mr Jimmy Verjee was my husband’s cousin and his wife Roshan (also in these pictures) was my mother’s and Shirin’s cousin too. I also recognize Mrs Gulbanu Amirali Nanji, Mrs Roshan Hassanali, and Mrs Daulat Abdulsultan as 3 of the teachers. We owe our gratitude to Allison Wallace for sharing these photos so generously. I would like to add that I also remember Mrs Kirk as a very kind, warm-hearted and dedicated headmistress that students and teachers alike respected greatly.
These pictures are truly rare and unique. I remember the late Mrs Jean Kirk very well. I have her signature in my school report card book I still have. I am sure these pictures will bring back memories of the school to former students. Many thanks to her daughter Allison for making the pictures available and Simerg for publishing them.
These pictures are truly unique and all the memories of our Aga Khan Primary School Headmistress and the teachers. In fact most of the teachers seen have expired. May their Souls Rest in Eternal Peace. Ameen. I loved seeing all the teachers who taught me. Very happy to have that memories again. I will definitely forward to our class mates.
Nasim Hirani (Rajan)
Monday, May 5, 2014.