This is a topic that is very close to my heart. First of all, if you have never witnessed real African poverty first hand, I think, and many would agree with me, that you have no right to express your opinion on this topic, period.
I have not met a single Malawian who thinks that this was a bad thing. This was one of the best things that could have happened for this child. However, many people have expressed several dynamics to this situation that need to be addressed:
“But the boy had a father. Surely it should stay close to its parent?” The father left that child in an orphanage. He clearly did not want it and the only reason he back-tracked was because he realised that he could have made some mula. He realised that Madonna had big bucks too late. Also, a certain aspect of Malawian tradition needs to be explained. I don’t really understand it myself because my parents raised me in a semi-western fashion but basically, in the southern region of Malawi children belong to the mother and are the mother’s responsibility. The opposite is true in the north. So, if parents in the south of Malawi split up for whatever reason, the children remain the mother’s responsibility. We don’t go to courts. The average Malawian is illiterate (i.e. can not read or write) and does not understand the law. Some follow tradition closely, others don’t. I cannot speak for Yohanne Banda but as he is a villager from the South of Malawi he would not have enough exposure to not follow his tradition. Sorry about the double negative.
“But Madonna was doing it as a publicity stunt.” So what? Whatever your reasons for doing something charitable, charity remains a good thing. You may do it to keep yourself in the public eye or because it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. End of the day, you have helped a less privileged individual. [added 5-Mar-11: Some research suggests that a lot of of charitable giving is driven by a desire to be perceived as giving and kind-hearted by one's peers]
“But Madonna is 48, she is far too old to adopt a child.” Hallooo? Her life expectancy is at least 80. She’s going to be there for David for a good long time yet. And at 48, you are still capable of reproducing yourself so surely you should be able to adopt, it’s less risky!
“But what’s the point of her adopting a child if she can never spend any time with him?” How much time do you spend with your kids? Also, Madonna can afford to fly her child to wherever she is. And on the point of spending time with offspring, in today’s modern society, even non-celebrity parents spend less and less time with their children because they are so busy. Loads of children spend more time with the computer or in front of the Tele than with Mummy and Daddy.
The advantage of a celebrity adopting. I think, because they are always in the public eye, the child is safer because we would know in a millisecond if something was wrong. If an unknown foreigner adopts a child, it is hard to verify their intentions. They may be recruiting people for the sex trade. You just don’t and can't know for sure.
Finally, what would David Banda’s life have been like had he not been adopted? It’s hard to explain Malawian poverty. It’s best for one to witness it. There’s a 10% chance that David would have died before he is one and a 20% chance that he would have died before he’s 5. Most Malawian orphanages don’t have funds to look after kids after they have grown. So once David was old enough to beg or produce things he can sell, e.g. cars made out of old clothes hangers and coke cans etc etc, that may be what he would have been doing. He may have been fortunate enough to go to school but the free education system is a shambles. Classes are too large, classrooms may hold more than 100 students. Some sit on the floor as there aren’t enough desks. Roofs are probably leaking. Some lessons are taught under a tree because there aren’t enough classrooms. There are very few teaching resources e.g. text and exercise books, pens, pencils. At times, only the teacher will have the core text book and the students will write what she has to teach on scraps of paper. I once tutored maths to a kid who was meant to be in her second year of high school. It really tested my patience, she didn’t know even the most basic mathematical principals – times tables, basic mental maths. And she went to a fee-paying school, so what hope do the state schools have?
What about access to medical facilities. Hmm, not so good. Now this I CANNOT explain. You need to see it for yourself. Even if I did try to explain it, you could not fully comprehend how poor the facilities are. Basically, as a poor boy in Malawi, David would have had very few opportunities in life. Frankly, anyone who fails to see the goodness of Madonna’s act: a) does not know what it means to be poor; or b) is jealous of little David; or c) is selfish.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.