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Madonna's field of broken dreams

posted 17 Aug 2011, 08:28 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 17 Aug 2011, 08:37 ]
Malawian villagers who sold their property for the pop star's stagnant school project want the abandoned land back

MALAWI-MADONNA ACADEMY -  Madonna, singer, saying (English):

"If this school is successful and God willing, it will be, we can use it as a model and replicate it not only in other places in Malawi but all around the world."

That was Madonna in 2006 talking about her dream of building a 15 million U.S. dollar state of the art school for the future of Malawi.

The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, outside of Malawi's capital, Lilongwe was to offer 500 scholarships to female students.

But more than a year after the Material Girl laid the foundation stone for the school at another ceremony to celebrate construction beginning, the site remains empty.

Work has long been abandoned and the board of the charity sacked amidst accusations of mismanagement of millions of dollars worth of funds.

Madonna loaned 11 million dollars to the project off the back of a flurry of sensational world-wide publicity surrounding her adoption of two children from Malawi - Mercy James and David.

Farmers in the area, along with local villagers, sold their land to make way for the 117-acre construction site.

With reports circulating that many were not even paid, others no longer have enough property left to farm for a living.

As Malawi has seen food prices rise dramatically in the past year, leading to nation-wide protests, farmers say the abandoned land should again be used for cultivation.

SOUNDBITE Edirita Bauti, farmer, saying (Chichewa with English narration):

"I would love to have my piece of land back or if not at least a portion of it. Look, this whole land is now deserted. We need land to cultivate our crops."

SOUNDBITE Fanuel Kwenda, saying (Chichewa with English narration):

"We are worried because we were forced to leave this land. We used to farm and harvest enough for our livelihood. But look now the land has been abandoned. We would rather have our land back."

Meanwhile a Malawian court has cleared the way for former employees of Madonna's Raising Malawi charity to sue the singer for wrongful dismissal.

Yet the pop diva announced earlier in the year that she wanted to build more community schools in the southern African nation.

Doug MacLaurin, Reuters.