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    Madonna Breaks Ground on Not-So-Groundbreaking Malawi School

    Madonna AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

    Madonna is pulling an Oprah

    As promised, the 51-year-old superstar returned to Malawi over the weekend to kick off the construction of her newest charitable endeavor, the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls, by shoveling the first ceremonial mound of dirt on the center's site just outside the capital city of Lilongwe.

    We knew those rock-hard biceps were being cultivated for good, not evil.

    "Growing up in a privileged life, I took education for granted...but coming to Malawi has taught me a lot of things and I have learnt to appreciate what life gives," said Madonna, who was accompanied at the tree-planting launch by all four of her children.

    "If this school is a success—and God willing, it will be—we will replicate it not only in Malawi but in other parts of the world as well."

    Citing her own two Malawi-born kids as inspiration, the Material Mama said she hopes her school would offer opportunities to those who would otherwise not be afforded a similar chance.

    "I realized how much they deserve to be educated and so for me the best thing I could do was to build a school, a unique school that will create future female leaders, scientists, lawyers, doctors...and if this school is successful it will be used as a model to replicate it in other countries."

    Why future builders would choose to replicate Madonna's model and not, say, Winfrey's truly groundbreaking Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is unclear. Though we could hazard a guess.

    Madonna's center of learning will cost approximately $15 million to build, will educate roughly 500 local girls and is expected to open in 2011.

    It's unclear how long Madonna will remain in Africa, though in addition to the construction launch, she is also expected to meet with President Bingu Wa Mutharika tomorrow and visit some of the nation's orphanages.

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    UPDATE Feb. 17, 2011: A representative for Raising Malawi announced today that due to land-use issues and other logistical problems, Madonna would not be building the girls-only academy in Malawi. However, the rep said that Madonna still planned on building other schools in the region that would educate "10 times" as many children as she originally planned.

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