84-year-old Kathrada who was Jailed alongside Nelson Mandela and others in 1964 pursued his studies through correspondence in UNISA and obtained Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees in History and Criminology and another in Library Science and African Politics.
He also obtained BA (Honours) degrees in African Politics and History, all while in prison as a political prisoner.
Lengthy apartheid-era imprisonment on Robben Island failed to deter everyone, even those who came there illiterate, from leaving with at least a basic education, Kathrada said at a graduation ceremony of UNISA on Wednesday.
Kathrada, a recipient of Pravasi Samman, outlined how the apartheid-era government had made study extremely difficult for the political prisoners, as well as how they succeeded against all odds.
“The level of pettiness of prison authorities knew no bounds. Although the lights were on throughout the night, if you were registered for standard 8, you were forced to sleep at 8pm, for standard 10 at 10pm and university students at 11pm!”, he said.
“All of these obstructionist efforts were in vain. In pursuance of our emphasis on studies, those who could taught others, so that today we can claim that every prisoner left the Island with at least a basic level of education,” Kathrada added.