Naledi Pandor was born in 1953 in Durban. She received most of her education in exile and matriculated at Gaborone Secondary School in Botswana. She obtained a BA in History and English at the University of Botswana in 1977 before leaving for overseas where she subsequently graduated with a MA at the University of London. Back in South Africa she was awarded a MA in Linguistics at Stellenbosch University in 1997.
Before becoming the Minister of Education in 2004, Naledi Pandor was involved in educational issues in various ways. She taught English in both Botswana and London and then lectured at the University of Botswana before joining the University of Cape Town in 1989 as a senior lecturer.
Following South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 Pandor was elected to Parliament, and in 1995, she became a Whip and then Deputy Chief Whip of the ANC. She also convened the Sub-Committee on Higher Education in the Education Portfolio Committee. In 1996, Pandor was appointed as member of the Cape Technikon Council. In August 1998 she became the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and in 1999 she was elected Chairperson.
2004: Minister of Education
2000: Chancellor of Cape Technikon
1995 - 1998: Deputy Chief Whip
1994: Member of Parliament, Chairperson Luthando Investments, Director of National Council of Provinces