Raising the bar

By Sohema Rehan
Tue, 08, 23

Starting off as a small, one room preschool initiative in 2006, today, Kiran Foundation provides transformational education and holistic support to marginalised communities. You! takes a look...

Raising the bar

Currently, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44 per cent of the total population in this age group, says a UNICEF report. According to the report, disparities based on gender, socio-economic status, and geography are significant; in Sindh, 52 per cent of the poorest children (58 per cent girls) are out of school and in Balochistan, 78 per cent of girls are out of school.

However, the situation is not that gloomy. There are NGOs like Kiran Foundation who have managed to touch countless lives - educating children, empowering mothers as well as caregivers, building safe and happy spaces where they can heal from pain, discover strengths and flourish together. Read on...

Education for the underprivileged...

“I call Muntaha my first Kiran, as it was because of her the foundation for this entire programme was laid,” tells the Founder and Chairperson Sabina Khatri, who has been awarded the Sitara-e- Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan for her untiring efforts. Introducing a young, smiling teenager who interacts confidently with everyone she meets, talking fluently in flawless English, it is obvious Sabina takes great pride in her proteges. Taking refuge from an abusive father, Muntaha’s mother brought her to Sabinas’ door step, who took the mother and young girl under her wing. While the priority was physical care, once the young child recovered, long term sustenance required an educational and financial game plan to take care of the then toddler and her mother. That is when the now Kiran Ibtedai Programme came into being in Lyari in Karachi: a non-formal, one room preschool with a place for mothers to emotionally and financially break away from their years of abuse. Now, the programme admits over 180 children annually with parents lining up outside the sprawling campus a night before for admission forms, typical of the most sought-after schools in Pakistan.

“We have various programmes running under our umbrella of the first and only mother and child trauma-informed education system in Pakistan and one of the few in the world,” explains Sabina. “Under the Kiran Ambassador Programme, we have been able to take 145 children from Lyari to main-stream schools and colleges like St Michael’s Convent, Haque Academy, Dawood Public School, Habib Public School, Habib Girls, Reflections, Generation, Happy Home, Aga Khan School, Origins, Nixor College, Cedar College and DA Degree College, since 2008. They are now stepping into Universities under the Uraan Programme, with Muntaha preparing for her MCAT for admission to a medical college after graduating from Bahria College, Mhawiya Younus completing his second year in LUMS at Lahore, Hammad, an avid photographer, studying at the Institute of Business Management in Karachi and so many more. Currently, the programme has successfully enrolled more than a hundred students at different institutions such as Habib Public, Bahria College, PACE College, KMA, Aga Khan, Sceptre College and universities like IoBM, SZABIST, Bahria, LUMS and Zia-ud-din University, with full scholarships. Apart from the degree programme, Uraan is giving support to kids in the English Communication Enhancement Programmes where classes are given weekly in order to enable them to communicate effectively within the span of their degree programme. “Every day, these children step out of their comfort zone and challenge the expectations society has from people of Lyari. Living in two different worlds is not easy. They are the first generation of change makers for Lyari, taking the Kiran message of love to the world,” highlights Khatri with a soft pride.

Lyari in focus

A one-of-a-kind educational parenting model, the Kiran Flagship Programme empowers children and their caregivers through consistent long-term financial, academic, social and emotional support. The programme aims to bridge socioeconomic gaps, providing equal educational and networking opportunities to students and families by providing them opportunities in all areas of their lives. Today the Foundation has two community centres in Lyari – The Salma Ghar and the Kiran Ghar in Kiran Gali, a colourful well-maintained street of Lyari that is buzzing with activity throughout the day with the various activities at both buildings. 

Raising the bar

Students of the Ambassador Programme see Kiran Ghar as their home where they come for evening classes and are given consistent academic, social, and emotional support through tuitions, enrichment programmes that are in-house as well as out-sourced as well as mental emotional health support if needed. It is their place to study, relax, unwind, chill and just be with its energetic cafeteria run by an ex-student, cosy libraries, AV room and all major state of the art facilities for youngsters with a stand by generator and internet as well as a carpeted and covered roof top for sports and other activities, where teenagers often indulge in friendly matches and have regular meet ups and get togethers.

Salma Ghar is a safe space for women where females of all ages from the community convene to learn, unwind or seek counselling and mental health support. It is completely holistic with a café, lounge, computer lab, exercise and a therapy room where women have the freedom to be whoever they choose to be.

It offers daily classes for mothers through which they are encouraged to discover new talents, skills, and hobbies. These contribute towards their well-being by focusing on their dreams and aspirations as well as garner power they inherently possess to change circumstances. Currently, courses like basic computers, Adobe Illustrator, Canva, Photoshop etc. to enable women to enhance their IT skills are offered. The aim is to initialise freelancing in various fields and help them become financially stable and independent.


The main focus of Kiran Foundation now is the DCTO (Deep Chand T. Ojha) Government School, which the foundation took under its wings with Akhuwat as its partner-in-adoption through Sindh Education Foundation’s Adopt-a-School-Programme in 2014. At its lowest points, at the peak of gang wars in Lyari, DCTO was taken over by miscreants and used as a torture cell. Gangsters who once strong armed the building now send their own children there to turn the future of their generations around. “It is difficult to express what Kiran means to us,” is a line most parents of children from the school repeat. With help in setting up businesses to arranging subsidised grocery bachat bazaars under the community engagement programs, Kiran is indeed a holistic platform, providing support in all facets of family life. “Educated, aware, and empowered mothers are the key to success for generations ahead. Enrolment of mothers has been an essential part of the Kiran model and perhaps, the most evident reason for success seen in children. With practice and experience, we saw the impact of educating a mother in a family unit. We realised that it served as the backbone of our entire mission. Our education models have mothers’ education as the core,” elucidates Sabina. “We aim to create a safe and happy, child-centric learning environment on the entire school level. This model goes beyond the idea of conventional education where children learn through a multi-disciplinary, experiential learning approach. Children are given the support they need to thrive and reach their full potential, recognising their individual strengths. We nurture future ambassadors of change who believe in love and compassion and who will lead their community towards a brighter, more peaceful future. Mothers’ education programme is compulsory and runs parallel to the children’s’ model,” she shares.

Raising the bar

A beacon of hope

The HBTS (Hadia Beyond The School) evening programme run by Kiran Foundation, gives the children of Lyari after-school clubs like football, gymnastics, cricket, art, board games and other engaging activities to keep unsupervised children off the streets. These go a long way in providing a healthy platform of self-expression for youngsters where they learn to expressing themselves through sports, various forms of arts, learning new languages and multi-disciplinary skills.

A school building donated by Ms Ambreen Khalid Khanani at Kati Pahari became one of their first steps towards expanding the educational empowerment beyond Lyari. It will replicate the trauma-informed model from their parent campus as the two areas have gone through similar dynamics of severe violence. A campus in Swabi in the Almabad Education Complex is also being set up in collaboration with the Rashid Memorial Organization. Formally registered in the USA also, Kiran works actively in Balochistan setting up and maintaining water projects, blood banks for Thallesmiac children, ration drives and provision of electricity resources in the form of solar panelling for homes and villages.

With its multi-faceted areas if functioning, the Kiran Foundation is truly a beacon of hope for Pakistani society, exemplifying the old age adage, when there is a will to turn things around, ways are found.

Maria Qaiser – The First International Ambassador

Raising the bar

A participant of the YES programme under which high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations live and study for a full academic year in the United States through the US Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programme, Maria has recently returned after spending a year with a host family in Wellesley, Massachusetts studying at the Wellesley High School, USA. Students like Maria have the opportunity to serve as youth ambassadors of their home country, promoting mutual understanding by forming lasting relationships with their host families and communities. They attend an American high school, acquire leadership skills, engage in activities to learn about the American society and its values and also counter educate Americans about their home country and culture other than inculcating a diverse network of friends that breaks them away from traditional, set social norms.


Under the compassionate approach of Kiran Foundation, one of the oldest schools from pre-partition Sindh based in Lyari, the DCTO, has seen what can only be termed a magical transformation. Kiran Foundation became its sole adopter and manager in 2016 and the first year after adoption was the ‘Healing Year.’ The focus was to begin the process of emotional healing of children who had seen far too much for their age and to bring them back to school. For the first time in their lives, children experienced that learning could actually be fun. Today the campus is a co-education school and educates 727 students and their mothers, currently in its 9th year of adoption.

In its past history of over a decade, the school had not secured any A grade at the board level. Today this is a thing of the past. Students have managed to attain top grades as well as admissions in reputable colleges in the city. Various facilities like state-of-the-art labs, co-curricular programmes like music and art, sports and others have gradually been introduced with assistance of various donors and corporate organisations including the Turkish Government, banks and other entities. A 60 KVA solar system makes the premises self-sustainable and fully operational during power failures.

Sabina Khatri – The Strength Behind Kiran

Raising the bar

Awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 2020 by the Government of Pakistan for her inspirational work, Sabina Khatri, other than spear heading Kiran Foundation, also serves as an Executive Board Member at HANDS, a non-profit organisation working under the leadership of Dr Ghaffar Billo. She is a Board Member at Moawin Foundation, working in the areas of Punjab, Gilgit and Baltistan. Her work was featured in ‘Ho Yaqeen’, a documentary series by Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (SOC Films) amongst being highlighted by various national and international media and corporate bodies in the form of media coverage and awards. She is a certified nutritionist and worked as a fitness instructor with a diploma in Nutrition and Fitness from Penn Foster University, AFFA and ACE. Running her private practice for 14 years, she provided a safe space to women, something that she still focuses on at Kiran. She acquainted herself to the field of mental health and wellbeing by completing a course by CPPD in humanistic integrated counselling. A strong promotor of mental health at the school level by fostering positive relationships and helping children as well as adults be emotionally and mentally healthy, she strongly believes in raising awareness on mental health, positive parenting, impact of trauma and abuse, reducing risks, learning self-regulation skills to cope with day-to-day stress, partnering with different organisations and individuals to provide emotional and mental health supports, counselling, therapy and targeted interventions to individuals struggling with various issues, training her staff and students on self-care and mental health.

Sohema Rehan has a degree in Clinical Psychology and Certification in Art Therapy. She can be reached at