Villagers Are Out. Madonna’s School Is In.

Saving the world sure keeps you busy. Yesterday we reported that Madonna is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for both Carnival celebrations and “fundraising and humanitarian purposes” and had met up with Sao Paulo’s Governor Jose Serra. Today we have news about the $15 million school for girls the singer is building in Malawi.

The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls is set to include modern environment-friendly features such as solar panels. The school will provide an education for 500 girls, the majority of whom will be from underprivileged households.

The school sounds great, right? About 200 villagers don’t exactly agree – because they’re currently living on a plot of land where Madonna wants to build the school.

On Thursday Lilongwe District Commissioner Charles Kalemba, other government officials and representatives from Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity met up with the villagers to tell them they would have to pack their bags. The villagers had previously refused to move from the plot in Blantyre, near the capital of Lilongwe.

“Government allowed you to occupy this land because there was no project yet. But now that Madonna wants to build you a school you have to give way,” Kalemba told the villagers. “You are lucky that Madonna has compensated you for your houses, gardens and trees.”

The government said it had originally planned to develop the plot and only allowed villagers to live there while the project was being chosen.

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Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, the future principal of the school, said Madonna paid the villagers more than 16 million kwacha (about $115,000) in exchange for moving to compensate the Malawians for their house, gardens and trees. The Associated Press noted that the houses are mostly mud-and-thatch structures.

Villager Amos Mkuyu isn’t pleased because he says the $1,500 in compensation he received doesn’t cover the value of his mango trees and three homes.

Mkuyu said that although the villagers are upset, “there is nothing much we can do because government is using threats.” He said his family had lived on his seven-acre plot for three generations.

Mtila-Oponyo said the charity is moving forward with the school.

“We stalled for some months because of the land dispute,” she said. “We are now in full swing and we intend to meet the 2011 deadline we set for ourselves.”

The principal explained that the school will focus on science.

“The academy will have a strong emphasis on sciences because it is the dream of Madonna that Malawi should train its own scientists and doctors to help the vulnerable Malawian girls and women who die needlessly because of lack of local expertise,” she said.

The central sub-Saharan African nation of Malawi means a lot to Madonna. Last year she adopted her daughter from Malawi and her son in 2008. In 2006 she founded Raising Malawi, a charity that helps feed, educate and provide medical care for the country’s orphans. The charity’s Web site points out that out of a population of nearly 14 million, there are 2 million orphans and vulnerable children suffering from extreme poverty and hardship.

Click here for the AP article.

Click here for Raising Malawi’s Web site.