Madonna's Dhs55 Million Broken Promise

26 Jan 2011

She falls short on her pledge to open a school in Malawi

After promising Dhs55 million to the government of Malawi in 2009 to set up an academy for underprivileged girls, Madonna has come under fire for not following through on her word.

The Material Girl has been criticised by Malawian government officials for changing her mind about the Raising Malawi Girls Academy, ditching the plans for the prestigious school in favour of lots of secondary schools around the country. And while it may seem like an equally honourable endeavour to most, it certainly doesn’t feel that way for the hundreds of displaced villagers who surrendered their land for the project.

“We’d like to know why she has changed,” blasted education minister Peter Mutharika. “Yes, we do appreciate that it’s her project; she devised it and she knows best how to implement it. But still, as government, we’d be interested to know why there is this change.” The initial plans for the academy saw over 200 poor villagers displaced after their land was promised to the Raising Malawi Girls Academy. To compensate the villagers for surrendering their ancestors’ land, Madonna donated a measly Dhs1.84 million towards helping them move.

Defending her new controversial decision Madonna spilled, “I realised the plans we had for the Raising Malawi Academy simply wouldn’t serve enough kids. I want to reach thousands not hundreds of girls. I want to do more and I want to do it better.”

But unlike fellow celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey, whose work in the nation has been widely praised, Madonna has been slated for her “pathetic” efforts, which have managed to not only make 200 locals homeless but halt the education for many young girls. “I honestly don’t know the number of schools she’s going to construct, where she will build them and for how long,” says Muthurika. “So until we talk to her, we can’t comment much.”

Madonna has also been criticised by leading Malawian children’s rights activist Maxwell Matewere – the man responsible for trying to stop her from adopting David Banda, five, and Mercy James, four. Accusing Madonna of “dumping” the project she was supposed to be complete this year, he slammed, “You educate a few to educate others. She must borrow a leaf from others like Oprah Winfrey who have done it in South Africa.”

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