Mar. 29 (GIN) – The collapse of pop star Madonna’s plans to build an elite $15 million academy for girls in Malawi has sparked lawsuits by former employees alleging failure to pay benefits and unfair dismissal.
The employees were let go after the Raising Malawi Academy was cited for financial mismanagement including lavish spending on offices, cars and golf membership. Madonna, who has adopted a boy and a girl from the southern African country, lent $11-million to the charity and now sits on the board.
When news of the school’s demise emerged two months ago, there was anger among villagers who had sacrificed their homes to make way for the 117 acre site near the capital, Lilongwe.
The Academy’s executive director was the boyfriend of Madonna's former personal trainer. He left in October amid criticism of his management style and cost overruns. The school was to take in 500 girls and prepare them as female leaders of the future.
Well-known Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alex Rodriguez, along with Madonna's associates in Kabbalah all invested in the failed project. In the finger-pointing that followed the school’s collapse, blame was also leveled at the Malawian educator, Dr. Anjile Oponyo, for having “weak management skills (that) contributed to the current financial and programmatic chaos." w/pix of Madonna at Academy ground-breaking