Controversy over branding of construction of classroom blocks as complete “schools” rages on following a latest declaration by US pop star Madonna’s partner buildOn to construct 23 more ‘schools’ in Neno and Kasungu this year.
The disclosure comes at the time Madonna, who has adopted two children—Mercy and James—from Malawi, came underfire when she announced in January last year that her Raising Malawi charity was teaming up with a non-profit group buildOn to construct 10 schools in Kasungu, which would educate at least 1 000 children a year.
Malawi Government has, however, said Madonna and her partners are creating misrepresentation on their school projects in Malawi by claiming that they are building complete schools when all they are doing is to construct additional classroom blocks in already existing government schools.
In an emailed response to Weekend Nation questionnaire on Wednesday, buildOn national communications director Carrie Pena said the 23 new “schools” will cost them about $621 000 (around K270 million) and will be financed by several donors.
“In 2013, we plan to build 23 additional two-classroom schools in the Kasungu and Neno districts of Malawi in partnership with each region’s district education manager’s office.
“The 23 two-room schools will be financed through donations made to buildOn by private individuals, corporate and foundation donors. At this time, none of these new structures are being funded by Raising Malawi,” said Pena.
She said some of the primary schools where buildOn will construct the two-roomed classroom blocks are Kauta and Jalo under Senior Chief Kaomba, Chikowa in Traditional Authority (T/A) Wimbe area and Kaulambwe under T/A Kaluluma in Kasungu.
“We have already partnered local communities to break ground on two-room school structures for the [above] locations. The rest of the communities will be chosen as the year progresses in partnership with the local district education manager’s office,” said Pena.
She said buildOn has built 72 two-classroom “schools” in Malawi since 1993, saying 70 of the “schools” are in Kasungu.
“Each two-classroom school is built with a corrugated metal roof and poured concrete floor, and accommodates approximately 100 children at any one time,” said Pena.
During her week-long visit to Malawi early this month, Madonna slammed the Education Ministry and accused President Joyce Banda’s sister Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo who is principal secretary for Basic and Secondary Education of creating trouble on her projects in Malawi instead of welcoming her as a private donor.
This is after Minister of Education, Science and Technology Eunice Kazembe had said Madonna and her partners did not consult her ministry on their school projects and were creating misrepresentation on the projects.
Said Kazembe: “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’s earlier plans to build, just outside Lilongwe, a state-of-the-art school for about 400 girls collapsed in 2011. She later announced that she would build small schools for Malawi’s children.