CHINKHOTA, Malawi (AP) - Madonna dashed from the airport to an impoverished Malawi village to discuss a school she is planning to build, saying nothing to the hordes of reporters on her trail Sunday about whether she is planning to start the process of adopting a second Malawian child.
The singer, casually dressed in a white fedora, walked in Chinkhota, a village near the capital of this AIDS- and poverty-stricken southern African country, holding the hand of her 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes. Dozens of reporters looked on.
The 50-year-old Madonna refused to answer questions about reports that she was in Malawi to adopt a 4-year-old girl. She said it was "amazing" to be back in the country where she runs a charity organization and from where she adopted her son David, 3, last year.
Then she rushed away in a convoy of at least three sport utility vehicles, as crowds of shouting, waving children ran after her.
Madonna was expected to appear Monday in court in Lilongwe, the capital, to sign adoption papers.
A security guard with the convoy said Madonna spoke to villagers about building a school, and she was seen looking at an artist's impression of the proposed building.
Madonna first traveled to Malawi in 2006 while doing charity work and filming a documentary on the devastating poverty and AIDS crisis here. Her Raising Malawi organization, founded in 2006, raises funds to fight poverty by providing food, shelter, education and health care for children here.
The U.N. estimates that half of the 1 million Malawian children with one or no parents was orphaned by AIDS, and that the virus that causes AIDS has infected 14 percent of adults here. Of the population of 13 million, 65 percent live below the poverty line, and most of those living in poverty are women. Madonna plans a special school for girls to increase opportunities for girls and young women in Malawi.
It was not clear if the school she discussed Sunday was her proposed Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.
A Malawian welfare official and another person involved in the adoption proceedings have said the girl Madonna is hoping to adopt
is about 4 years old and her unmarried mother died soon after she
was born. The girl's father is believed to be alive but no other details were available. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is considered sensitive.
A U.S. government official has also confirmed that an adoption bid by Madonna, an American citizen, is under way.
Madonna has faced harsh criticism for years over David's adoption. Children's advocacy groups accused her of wielding her immense wealth and influence to circumvent Malawian law requiring an 18- to 24-month assessment period before adoption.
But locals were not so condemning.
Wilson Kalibwanji, a resident of Chinkhota, said he would willingly place his own son in her care to ensure the boy a better life.
"We are poor people," he said Sunday. "If a child's mother dies, it is hard for the man to bring the child up."
Austin Msowoya, legal researcher with Malawi's Law Commission, played down concerns that a second adoption by Madonna would violate any laws. He said the best interests of the child would be taken into account - whether that was staying in an orphanage in Malawi or getting "an education with Madonna."
"When you look at these two options, then perhaps it becomes in the best interests of the child to allow the adoption if the parents and the guardians consent to it," he told Associated Press Television News on Saturday.
But Save the Children UK said the recently divorced superstar risked sending the wrong message by going through with the second adoption.
"International adoption can actually exacerbate the problem it hopes to solve," spokesman Dominic Nutt said Saturday. "The very existence of orphanages encourages poor parents to abandon children in the hope that they will have a better life."
Nutt said he was not suggesting that Madonna was doing anything wrong - but he said the whole process of international adoptions was often flawed and sometimes linked to criminal activity.
He said, barring exceptional circumstances, children should be kept in the care of their extended families or within their communities.
Madonna's spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg in New York, who has not
commented on the adoption reports, told The Associated Press the star would not respond to comments from Save the Children.
Madonna told Malawi's The Nation newspaper that she was considering another adoption but would only do it if she had "the support of the Malawian people and government."
If the adoption goes through, Madonna would become a single mother of four. She also has an 8-year-old son, Rocco, with former husband and British film director Guy Ritchie and her daughter Lourdes from a previous relationship.
She and Ritchie, who were married in 2000, obtained a preliminary divorce decree in November 2008.
Associated Press Writer Raphael Tenthani in Lilongwe contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)