A western charity fails in a top-down development project. But the spotlight shines more on the star than on the unbuilt school.

This article titled “Madonna’s folly in Malawi” was written by Claire Provost, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 30th March 2011 17.30 UTC

In Malawi, about .8m (£2.4m) has disappeared and a school has been left unbuilt. Alone, that story would never make international headlines. But because the money and the project belonged to Madonna’s charity Raising Malawi, the scandal has quickly made its way into media outlets worldwide.

Celebrities are, of course, not newcomers to the game of getting unprecedented media coverage for otherwise unpopular issues. The celebrity campaigner has become so prolific that there is now a website whose sole purpose is to keep a record of celebrities and their charitable causes. By today’s count, it registers 1,676 charities and 2,493 celebrities.

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