Madonna jets in Malawi, to hold talks with Pres. Joyce Banda

US pop star Madonna criticised by President Joyce Banda for “changing her mind” over plans to build schools in Malawi, arrived in the country Monday morning.

Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi, arrived at 9am local time, according to Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) immigration officials in the capital, Lilongwe.

The singer is scheduled to hold talks with President Banda, the second woman ever to become an African president who stepped into the post after the death from a heart attack of her autocratic predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012.

In December, Madonna’s charity Raising Malawi announced that its efforts to support vulnerable children in the southern African country had led to the construction of 10 primary schools to serve more than 4,800 pupils in rural villages.

Madonna and Anjimile Oponyo on her right
Madonna and Anjimile Oponyo on her right

The schools, it said, were the result of a partnership between Madonna, her charity, and a non-profit school-building organisation, buildOn.

But Malawi flatly denied the pop star’s claims.

Education Minister, Eunice Kazembe, implied that Madonna did not deserve quite so much credit. “The schools Raising Malawi claims to have constructed were already in existence,” she said.

“Raising Malawi only built 10 classroom blocks and not schools,” the minister went on. “People should know the difference between the two.” The Malawi government, she said, was keen to “clarify any misconceptions that may arise”.

The singer has had her run-ins with the country’s authorities before, following difficulties with Raising Malawi’s previous educational endeavours. In 2009, to great fanfare, she laid the foundation stone for a $15m (£9.4m) elite academy for girls in Chinkota village, not far from the national capital, Lilongwe. Madonna reportedly invested $11m of her own money in the project, which was also backed by the singer’s Kabbalah associates.

A year later, however, the school’s construction was cancelled and its local staff sacked, after a report accused them of “extreme mismanagement”. The report claimed funds had been expropriated and spent on luxury cars and golf club membership. The 117-acre Chinkota site, for which many villagers had been forced to give up their homes, is now a “heroes’ acre” and national monument.

Following the furore, Madonna announced she would build 10 schools instead, but the Department of Education initially rejected the suggestion, saying it was “fed up” with her interference.

Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, sister to President Banda, a development worker Madonna hired as chief executive officer of the $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls is  now Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education

Malawi has over a million children most of them orphaned by the Aids epidemic and is ranked by the United Nations as one of the world’s 20 least developed countries.

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