The director of Madonna's Raising Malawi foundation has hit out at reports the star faces protests from locals over the construction of her school in the country - insisting the project has the "support of the village". Reports suggest residents of the government-owned land the star has leased to house a $13.5 million academy for 200 local girls are angry over the amount of compensation they have received to move home.
The villagers were warned they faced prosecution if they do not make way for the facility outside the capital Lilongwe after construction began in October 2009. But following reports that villagers feel they have been short-changed by Madonna over their $115,000 compensation, Phillip Van den Bosche - the director of Raising Malawi - insists the claims are "ridiculous" and locals are happy about the school.
He tells the Associated Press, "If you visited the land prior to this allocation, you would have found that there were at the most one or two small huts. The people who were on the land now have an equivalent plot of agricultural land where they can continue their farming... The community will be enhanced by this."
"It was a done deal but of course whenever Madonna's name is involved, opportunism is involved. The thought that Madonna would be going on this land to take something away or to hurt people or to bulldoze people out of their homes is ridiculous. The school is built to build cultural pride, not to destroy it."
"Madonna is a donor to this project - she's just one of many donors to it, and she has taken the creation of the girls academy on as a pet project of hers, it's something she feels very connected to. (But) it's not really her school, it's a collaboration. We believe it's a beautiful project and we have the support of the village."