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The Sochum concept was initiated by ECS in 2006 with the idea of developing centres for education and life skills in villages. ‘Sochum’ is a Chang terminology for a traditional dormitory or the traditional practice of ‘Morung’ among the Nagas where young boys and girls get together in their respective dorms for social interactions and also learn cultural knowledge, skills, and traditional ways of life.
The Church, Village council, VEC, Students Union, PTA, and the broader community all contribute towards the sustenance of this program. In the Sochum, students gather in the evenings to study as well as to learn life skills and return home at the break of dawn. They not only learn from books but are trained on life skills through hands-on orientation on agriculture, horticulture, crafts, gender awareness, imbibing worldview through oral traditions on culture, social institutions, customs, and beliefs, and so on.
From 2019, the Sochem project is run with support from Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in collaboration with Chang Baptist Lashoung Thangnyen and with ECS as the facilitator and the Dolen Thangjam (the village management committee), and the community also taking shared responsibilities for its implementation on the ground.
During the lockdown in 2020, the Sochums had to close as per state Covid-19 norms, however, tuition classes were run in shifts during the day for different classes, maintaining social distancing, wearing of masks etc. When all schools shifted their learning to online mode, many students struggled in the villages as their parents did not own smartphones.
After a thorough discussion and with support from the village councils and the churches, we decided to open the Sochum doors for students who had no smartphones in the house, so they could attend online classes and examinations. Tuition classes in two shifts (morning and evening) were also organized so that students could study their lessons and write down the notes sent by their teachers through phones.
Sochum premises were also accessed with strict norms by some student returnees from town to village during the lockdown to write their online exams. The Sochum wardens really stepped up and got in touch with teachers for each child’s lesson plans, tests, etc., and ensured that their students got all the notes in time. They also assisted the students to attend online classes and tutored them to prepare for online exams using their own personal phones.