Hersheela Narsee was born in Durban on the 23 of March 1956. Narsee grew up in a family of eight children. She attended the Gandhi Desai High School from 1967 to 1973. In 1974, she enrolled as a student with the University of Durban Westville. During her studies she took a year off to work, and came back to complete a BSc. Degree in 1977. She proceeded to post-graduate level and obtained a BSc. Honours in Biochemistry in 1979. From 1980, Hersheela worked for the University of Natal as a laboratory assistant, while studying for a higher diploma in education. During her years as a university student, she became involved in student politics, organising boycotts and other forms of protests.
She was detained for violating Group Areas Act 1979 and spent time at John Voster Square. She also spent some hours behind bars for being in possession of banned literature and for putting up posters in Durban. From 1982 to 1997 Hersheela became involved in the education sector teaching Mathematics and Physical Science in high schools in KwaZulu-Natal. In 1983, she became one of the founding members of the Natal Organization of Women (NOW), becoming the organisation’s first secretary. In 1990, she worked with the Detainees Support Committee and thereafter got involved with the National Educators’ Union of South Africa. Hersheela was the chairperson of the women’s committee of the Teachers’ Association of South Africa and also as the gender co-ordinator of South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) in Durban.
Narsee furthered her studies and in 2002 obtained a Masters degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Following this, she completed her Doctorate at the University of Pretoria in 2006. Narsee then worked for five years as an Education Policy Analyst at the Centre for Education Policy Development (CEPD) before joining Government. Narsee currently holds the post of Director: Research Co-ordination, Monitoring and Evaluation in the National Department of Basic Education. Her work entails monitoring and evaluation of the education system, and the co-ordination of research in the Department.