A STREET child is neither a child nor an adult. Or, to say it differently, he/she is both a child and an adult.
They are psychologically alienated from themselves because their status is marked by ambivalence.
They are supposed to be children. Yet oftentimes they are forced by circumstances to take on the role of adults such as earning a living.
Children are pushed to the streets by the deprivations that characterize most homes in slums: inadequate housing conditions, filthy physical surroundings and inhospitable neighborhoods, lack of basic amenities and social services, insecure employment, hunger, domestic violence—and lack of parental care and nurture.
They are pulled to the streets by the perceived promise: the opportunity to earn their own money, buy themselves the simple necessities of life and, occasionally, help out in the financial difficulties of their families.
The streets enable them to socialize with fellow children, engage in play and indulge in simple leisure denied them at home.
The streets afford a way of escaping the oppressive boredom and lack of creative prospects at home.
More important, they enable them to get away from the hostilities and violence that frequently blight relations at home.
Once in the street, the children are just a step away from drugs.
Street life is tough. The opportunities for earning are extremely limited. On top of their being minors, children are unskilled and uneducated.
In the street, survival is the name of the game. Food is short and hunger is a constant companion.
Although friendship abounds, there is no absence of foes and adversaries. Conflict with the police and authorities is a constant and they have to be continually on their toes for possible confrontation.
Household glue is a way out—a survival drug.
It helps the child survive physically and psychologically. It is a convenient solution to the most pressing problem of the street child—hunger—since one of the effects of the inhalant is to suppress the sensation of hunger.
Psychologically, it provides the bond that connects a child to a group to which he or she can turn to for support in the lonesome world of the street and from whom one can derive some sense of self-identity.
And it enables a child to create an imaginary world where he or she is master, powerful and controlling, in stark contrast to the real world.
In this drugged world, the child is able to overcome limitation and can “fly” and “jump” from tall buildings.
For once, the child ceases to be a child and is transformed into an adult.
In a larger context, street children are no more than a symptom of a society that has failed to provide an inclusive environment to its members.
Street children are excluded from the economic resources of the community by the very reason of their being children. They are often held in disregard, if not disdain, by the larger society.
Socially excluded groups tend to engage in socially unacceptable behavior.
Such behavior had been viewed as means of coping. They are mechanisms by which people who do not have access to the means for attaining socially defined goals “make sense” of their exclusion.
Politically they have no voice.
(Dr. Armando F. de Jesus is the dean of the College of Arts and Letters, University of Sto. Tomas.) –Armand F. de Jesus, Special To The Manila Times