Madonna ‘exaggerating’ school contributions in Malawi: Engages in publicity stunt

US pop star Madonna, who adopted David Banda and Mercy James in 2006 and 2009 from Malawi, has been criticised of engaging in a publicity stunt  to showcase as if she has built schools, yet she only contributed to BuildOn which has constructed classrooms and not entire schools.

The singer, who arrived in the capital Lilongwe over the long weekend by private Gulfstream jet, initially planned a multi-million dollar girls school project before changing plans to help fund several community schools to benefit more Malawians.

More than 200 families in Chinkhota, the village central region of Malawi were forced to sell their combined 117 acres of land to make way for the Material Girl’s state-of-the-art academy but it failed to take off.

Madonna said her Raising Malawi charity would instead build 10 primary schools for orphans and vulnerable children.

Top of the class:  Madonna with Mercy and David attend lesson at Mkoko Primary School
Top of the class: Madonna with Mercy and David attend lesson at Mkoko Primary School

However, Madonna has not build any school but contributed to the non-profit group BuildOn to fund some classrooms.

Many Malawians who spoke to Nyasa Times said they were upset that Madonna was “claiming” to have constructed schools, when she has built classrooms at existing schools.

The Ministry of Education accused Madonna of being more interested in promoting her global image than helping with education there.

Malawi’s Education Minister Eunice Kazembe claimed the singer’s contribution had been exaggerated as the buildings were merely additional classroom blocks rather than whole schools.

According to Kazembe, the definition of a school is an eight classroom block and not a classroom.

“When you look at the totality of it, it is helpful, every bit helps, but it is a long shot to call it significant,” she said.

But Trevor Neilson, president of the Global Philanthropy Group that is managing the pop star’s projects in Malawi defended the singer. He told the Associated Press: “the schools are built to the exact national standards of Malawi, like every other Malawian school.”

He said: “The bottom line is that 3,800 children are going to school now who were not going to school before.”

Madonna is the “biggest global philanthropist” Malawi has ever had, said Neilson.

“Madonna is happy that the communities are appreciating her efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Madonna has asked for an audience with President Joyce Banda, according to a letter sent to the Office of President and Cabinet seen by Nyasa Times.

President Banda last year criticised Madonna over her failed plan to build schools.

Government insiders told Nyasa Times that President Banda has “a busy schedule” to allow Madonna an audience, saying she is going to delegate officials in the ministry of education to meet her.

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