Madonna to build girls' school in Malawi: lawyer

LILONGWE Wed May 14, 2008 9:41am EDT

Madonna carries her adopted son David at the Home of Hope orphanage in Mchinji village, 84 miles west of the capital Lilongwe, April 17, 2007. At right is Madonna's daughter Lourdes. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Madonna carries her adopted son David at the Home of Hope orphanage in Mchinji village, 84 miles west of the capital Lilongwe, April 17, 2007. At right is Madonna's daughter Lourdes.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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LILONGWE (Reuters) - U.S. pop diva Madonna plans to start building a multi-million-dollar girls' school in Malawi for underprivileged children this year, her local lawyer said on Wednesday.

"A task force of four prominent Malawians has already been formed to head the project which will be on the scale of what Oprah Winfrey has in South Africa," Madonna's lawyer Alan Chinula told Reuters.

"It is a multi-million dollar project and we will get the real costs in the next two weeks."

Billionaire U.S. television magnate Winfrey has built a $40 million all-girl leadership academy in South Africa which boasts state-of-the-art facilities including laboratories, a yoga studio and beauty salon.

Malawi's High Court is expected to approve Madonna's bid to adopt two-year-old Malawian David Banda on Thursday. Malawi's government and David's father -- his only surviving parent -- have endorsed the adoption.

Madonna will not attend the final court ruling on her adoption bid because she is busy with other engagements, Chinula said on Tuesday.

The adoption has been controversial, with critics accusing the government of skirting laws that ban non-residents from adopting children in Malawi, which has been ravaged by an AIDS epidemic that has produced more than one million orphans.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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