Malawi’s Education Minister Eunice Kazembe on Wednesday lashed out at visiting US pop star Madonna for claiming to have built 10 schools across the country.
Said Kazembe in an interview: “There is a misrepresentation out there that Madonna has built 10 schools in Malawi. That is not true because what she is building are school blocks within existing government schools.”
Madonna arrived in Malawi on Easter Monday and toured an orphanage—the Ministry of Hope Crisis Nursery in Lilongwe — and on Tuesday went to Kasungu where she inspected a two-classroom block at Mkoko Primary School built by her.
“Building school blocks in existing schools needed our endorsement because government needs to plan for additional teachers in such circumstances,” Kazembe said.
The singer, who has adopted two children from Malawi, came under-fire when she announced in January last year that her Raising Malawi charity was teaming up with a non-profit group BuildOn to construct the schools, which would educate at least 1 000 children a year.
Her earlier plans to build, just outside Lilongwe, a state-of-the-art school for about 400 girls collapsed in 2011, and the board of her Raising Malawi charity was fired.
Her staff in Malawi later sued her for unfair dismissal and the two parties agreed on an out of court settlement.
But she is still yet to pay others that were in her team despite the courts ruling in their favour.
Joyce banda is not amused
Madonna has not been in Malawi for the last two years and now faces a new administration under President Joyce Banda who last year expressed her misgivings about the singer’s change of plans on the academy.
State House insiders on Wednesday said the President is not amused by her visit to Malawi.
Meanwhile, presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane Wednesday showed The Nation a handwritten letter from Madonna asking for an audience with Banda.
“I have always admired your strength and courage and have very fond memories of when we met and spoke…. As you know I am in Malawi for the week. If you have any time in your very busy schedule to meet that would be great. If not, just know I would like to be of service and continue to support the children of Malawi,” reads part of the letter.
Nhlane said the President has not yet granted the audience.
No war of words
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), on its website www.bbc.co.uk,on Wednesday quoted Trevor Neilson, president of the Global Philanthropy Group which is now managing Madonna’s Raising Malawi projects, as playing down the war of words.
He said $400 000 had been spent on building the 10 school blocks allowing some 4 000 children, who had been learning under trees, to be taught in classrooms.
BBC further reported that the singer received a warm welcome at Mkoko Primary School in Kasungu on Tuesday where she had constructed a school block with the non-profit organisation, BuildOn.
“I love Malawi, I am committed to help end poverty here,” the pop star said as school children, joined by hundreds of villagers, danced around her at the school.
Malawi, which is ranked by the United Nations as one of the world’s 20 least developed countries, has more than half a million children orphaned by Aids.
Madonna, who leaves on Friday this week, is expected to visit the orphanage where she found David Banda.