Entertainment, Film and Music

Madonna in Malawi: Celebrity promises turn to disappointment in impoverished southern Africa

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Malawi — Celebrity promises have turned to disappointment, finger-pointing and lawsuits in Malawi, an impoverished and troubled southern African country where Madonna has drastically scaled back charity efforts.

Some Malawi officials say Madonna’s change in plans have taken them by surprise, but Madonna’s camp says the government has been informed and involved in the new agenda.
In 2009, Education Minister George Chaponda helped Madonna break ground for a $15 million academy for girls. Earlier this year, Madonna’s Raising Malawi foundation announced that instead of building the academy, it is providing $300,000 to the non-governmental organization buildOn, which has years of experience in Malawi, to develop 10 schools. They’ll serve about 1,000 boys and girls in the southern African nation of 15 million that is among the poorest in the world.

“We haven’t been officially approached about the change”, Chaponda complained recently. “We are just reading from the media but we haven’t been told anything.”

“We need to know what’s happening. She can’t just say: ‘I’m building schools here.’ We need to be consulted in order to work out where schools are needed based on our data,” he said. “Let’s do it properly.”

But Trevor Neilson, who is helping to direct Madonna’s school project in Malawi as a partner of the Global Philanthropy Group, said allegations the government was being left out of Madonna’s planning are “absolutely not true.”

“Our partnership with buildOn received the explicit approval from the education ministry. We had … six government officials who attended the contract signing along with about 50 or so members of the community,” he said.

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