Remember Madonna’s grand plan to build an ultra-green school for girls in Malawi? It turns out that it’s a bit of a sore spot for locals, who are refusing to move off the plot of land where the pop singer’s school is supposed to be located. Because, yes, Madonna is kicking locals out of their homes, however meager, to build a state-of-the-art school.
One family, for example, is receiving $1,500 from Madonna to abandon three homes and buy some mango trees. The family has supposedly been living on the land for three generations. The government claims, however, that the land was always supposed to be developed and that villagers were only allowed to live on it until a project was chosen.
Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, the future principal of the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, says that Madonna is offering up $115,000 in compensation to move 200 villagers out of their mostly mud-and-thatch homes and onto other plots of government land. But can we really put a price on the practice of shooing people off their property? And is $115,000 really enough when Madonna is putting $15 million into the construction of her school? We can’t begrudge Madonna’s good intentions, but it doesn’t make sense to upset the locals when the whole point of the school is to make their lives better.