Hossein Ziai’s education started in 1948 at age four at Kudakestan-e Shahdokht, a private (melli ملی) kindergarten that he remembered with great fondness, and continued through fourth grade at its associated primary school, Gohariyeh. A progressive, co-educational institution with small classroom sizes, the facility was designed on a Russian model with well-equipped classrooms and playgrounds. Named after Shahdokht Shams Pahlavi, the school was governed by its visionary principal Iran Salehi, and taught by caring, well-educated teachers who instilled the love of learning in the students; special treats uncommon in Iranian schools at the time included documentary film screenings, piano recitals, and costume parties.

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