Madonna's school coming up fast in Malawi
Lilongwe (Malawi), Jan 10 - The white placard is rather nondescript, but it marks a unique construction site on the rolling meadows outside Malawian capital Lilongwe - a school being built by pop star Madonna who has adopted two children from the country.
The small southern African state, with a population of 13.5 million, had first seen an influx of tabloid journalists jetting into its small airport in 2006, when Madonna adopted a Malawian boy, David Banda. She already has two biological children, Lourdes and Rocco.
Last year, she adopted another Malawian child, a girl this time, Chifundo 'Mercy' James. But both times she had run into initial legal troubles, as both the children had one living parent, despite being brought up in an orphanage.
There is a Malawian provision that the future parent had to live in the country for a period of time. However, most of the laws were waived, with the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling in her favour. As a thanksgiving, Madonna started a charity organisation, Raising Malawi, for the development of children.
In fact, Malawi has a large population of orphans, estimated to be around two million. Nearly one-fourth have one or both parents who have perished from AIDS.
Madonna and her four children had come down to Malawi for the ground-breaking ceremony for the $15-million school in October 2009. The hostel will be for 500 girls selected from all districts of the country, which has a GDP per capita of just $541.
The site for the school is just off the road from Kamuzu international airport to Lilongwe.
When a visiting IANS correspondent went to the site, a dirt road led along the white board which is just written with the words - "Project Site for Raising Malawi Academy for Girls". The road was clearly being used by heavy construction equipment making their way to the actual construction site.
The rolling greens was scarred by strips of red earth, with a yellow bulldozer at work, piling soil on to the back of waiting white trucks. There were around four to five trucks waiting or moving around, though there were no physical structures yet.
The academy is set to be operational in two years. Incidentally, the orphanages from where the children had been adopted have also benefited from the increased attention, receiving lots of foreign funding.
Most Malawians are quite positive about Madonna's adoption. According to Kush Mittal, an Indian businessman living in Lilongwe, there was not much opposition to the American pop star taking two Malawian children into her family, though there were dissenting voices. "It was generally thought that the children would get a better life," Mittal told IANS.
Thirty-year-old Nero Banda, who worked in the hospitality industry, also had no qualms about Madonna's adoption. "We appreciate it. They (children) would have remained poor here. But now, it will be different," he said, gesticulating with his hand.
"The people who were criticising were the rich people whose children were going to foreign schools," he added. (IANS)