Answer to a question from a reader

Am I responsible for the school fees of a child I look after but is not mine?

The short answer

You are in the clear as regards the responsibility for paying.

The whole question

My daughter’s friend has been living with us for the last few years. 

With her mother's permission I took the child in as she was desperate and wanted to get her matric.  

I completed all the school forms but the person responsible for the school fees is her father, whose details I listed.  

Every year when the school sent the forms home to be updated I listed her father’s details for the responsible person to pay the account. Yet every time the school sent statements, it was made out in my husband’s name. We phoned the school and gave them the correct details.

The girl's report was withheld due to outstanding school fees. Again I gave her father’s details and I did the same when the school governing body withheld her report and insisted I sign an acknowledgment, which I never did.  

I received a call from the school's lawyers saying I’m responsible for the school fees. I explained the whole story to them and said that the school has her father’s details as messages were sent to him and he made contact with the school and also had a meeting with the principal acknowledging the debt. Arrangements were made but I have no information on those what arrangements.  

Where do I stand?

The long answer

As far as we can see, you are in the clear as regards the responsibility for paying the child's school fees, as you are not the parent and have consistently given the school the correct information about her father being the responsible party.

We did check with the Equal Education Law Centre, who confirmed this but said you may wish to contact them directly for support.

Their contact details are:
Tel: 021 461 1421

Incidentally, a school may not withhold results because fees have not been paid.

Answered on Jan. 22, 2019, 12:14 p.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.