RUBBER cement, locally known as “rugby,” plays a detrimental role in the lives of street children, who rely on the substance to overcome hunger, depression, as well as personal problems and weaknesses, a University study shows.

Presented before the International Federation of Catholic Universities-Center for Coordination of Research (IFCU-CCR), the research titled, “Drug and substance use and abuse among street children in an urban setting in the Philippines: a qualitative study,” found that rugby, the orange-colored adhesive commonly bought in hardware stores, becomes part of the lives of some 20 children who participated in the study, because of the “push-pull” factors.

“There are two factors that simultaneously push and pull a child to the street: the home conditions as the pushing factors and the street conditions as the pulling factors,” said Faculty of Arts and Letters professor Cresencio Doma, who spoke before researchers from Thailand, Indonesia, Lebanon, India, and France.

“Rugby is engrained as a subculture in the street conditions that pull children to the streets,” Doma added.

Doma, fellow Artlets professor Arlen Ancheta, Institute of Religion professor Aguedo Florence Jalin, and Thomasian sociologist Reynaldo Rey were the major researchers in the study. Artlets Dean Armando de Jesus supervised the group.

The researchers went to Mabuhay Rotonda, Araneta Avenue near E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, and the vicinity of the Malate Church to conduct their studies. Children aged seven to 17 years old, who have six to 10 “contact hours” in the street, served as subjects.

By spending time and immersing themselves in the streets with the children, the researchers conducted the research through key informant interviews, in-depth interviews with the children for 14 to 20 days and nights, inspection of the children’s homes, participant observation, and focus-group discussion inside UST.

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Findings showed that the children do not have solid family support, and because of poverty, more importance is given to food than education. Children’s health and nutrition are not given attention.

The researchers also found out that the children have no encouraging home environment and experience domestic violence, sibling rivalry, and a hand-to-mouth lifestyle. These environments push the children to the streets.

Economic opportunities like selling plastic bottles and companionship with children of the same state then pull the children to the street.

With their earnings, the children get rugby through a “middle man,” an adult who buys the substance for the children since it cannot be sold to children, the study revealed.

“Rubgy sniffing is a part of the street children’s lifestyle,” Jalin said. “The availability of rugby contributes to ‘pull’ the children to roam the streets.”

Street children use rugby as a rite of passage, a way to initiate a child’s beginning to cope with the harsh life of the streets, to pass time, and to become accepted by peers.

Immediate effects of inhalants include hallucination, headaches, and muscle weakness, among others. The research showed that the children experience intense headache, hunger, and drowsiness right after substance use.

“The rugby subculture serves as a window in the street life. It shows that the children are socially excluded from the society. Rugby provides a way out of their hunger and overcome weakness,” the study said. “There is no concrete measure done in the family (and in the) neighborhood.”

Jalin said that the problem is complicated and answering takes one step at a time.

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“We can start to answer the problem here in the University,” Jalin said. “We could conduct seminars and forums about this study that would see the participation of students and non-government offices to do volunteer works in helping these children become normal again.”

Monsignor Guy-Réal Thivierge, head of the IFCU-CCR in France, told the Varsitarian, the research must carry on and be implemented.

“The research is only a stepping stone and it has to be continued. Results must be used,” Thivierge said. “The whole research has been dynamic because of the wedding of social science and scientific approach.”

Thivierge said he was “profoundly convinced with the international research colloquium because it has centered on people interaction.”

“We should see that we build relationship and network through knowledge,” Thivierge said. “As we build knowledge through education and research, we also take the chance for us to have noble objectives and that is to build lives.”

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