Madonna celebrated the beginning of construction of her $15 million school for girls in Malawi on Monday, smiling throughout the proceedings as she cut ribbons, planted trees and made speeches, the Associated Press reports. Madonna arrived in the south African country on Sunday along with her four children — daughters Lourdes and Mercy James, and sons Rocco and David. Both David and Mercy were adopted from Malawi.

The ceremony took place in the town of Chinkhota, six miles from the capital Lilongwe. With the help of her daughter Lourdes, Madonna planted the strong Moringa Tree that has edible leaves.

“If this school is a success  — with God-willing it will be,” Madonna said, “We will replicate it not only in Malawi but in other parts of the world as well.”

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The new school will be named the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls and will open by 2011. The future principal, Anjimile Mtila-Opponyo, said the school will educate 500 students and emphasize science and mathematics. The school will be similar to the one Oprah Winfrey built in South Africa.

“Madonna did not accept that Malawian women would not study science to become doctors,”Anjimile said.

“In all my travels, investigations and conversations the most recurring thing is how amazing Malawian women are, both young and old,” Madonna told the 1,000 villagers that gathered, “How industrious they are and how much they deserve to be educated.”

Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi, helps feed, educate and provide medical care for Malawi’s orphans. It was founded in 2006 when she first visited the country.

Malawi is a nation of 12 million and is one of the poorest countries in the world. About 500,000 children there have lost a parent to AIDS.

Madonna will meet with President Bingu wa Mutharika on Tuesday and visit some of the orphanages her charity supports.

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