Jacqueline Kirk, 1968-2008

August 28, 2008

Colleagues have paid tribute to an academic killed in an ambush in Afghanistan.

Jackie Kirk, a 40-year-old adjunct professor of education at McGill University in Canada and a former research fellow at the University of Ulster, was killed when the convoy of aid agency vehicles in which she was travelling was attacked on 13 August.

The Taleban are reported to have claimed responsibility for the ambush. Dr Kirk was working for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a US aid agency.

Alan Smith, Unesco chair in education at the University of Ulster and a former colleague, said: "People have said how respectful she was of local knowledge and context. She was always willing to listen and get local people's opinions and wasn't hasty to jump to a quick solution. She was very sensitive ... and had highly developed social skills."

Dr Kirk's husband, Andrew Kirk, associate dean in the engineering faculty at McGill, said: "I have had so many emails from her colleagues saying what an inspiration she was to them, especially younger researchers who admired her and her approach."

After reading for a languages degree at the University of Bristol, Dr Kirk trained as a teacher at the Institute of Education and taught in schools in London, Tokyo and Brussels. Her doctoral studies at McGill examined the lives of teachers in Pakistan, and she returned to the Canadian institution after a research fellowship at Ulster. She took up the post as adjunct professor in McGill's education faculty just two months ago.

Dr Kirk juggled her academic research with consulting for the IRC and various UN agencies, and was working as a senior technical adviser on education projects for the IRC when she died. One of her articles analysed an IRC scheme offering teacher training to women in remote areas so girls who could not go to school could be educated at home.

"From my understanding, one of her real strengths was that she had a foot in both academic programmes and field programmes," said her husband.

One of Dr Kirk's research interests was gender equality and access to education in conflict and post-conflict areas.

Michael Kocher, vice-president for international programmes at the IRC, said: "It is a profound, unspeakable loss. Jackie was compassionate, committed, brave, an expert in her field, and she really voted with her feet working in the places where the needs were biggest. While young, she was internationally recognised as an authority in her field. Her colleagues here are devastated."

She is survived by her husband, parents and two sisters.

Three of her IRC colleagues were also killed in the attack.


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