A Durban prison inmate passed his matric examinations with five distinctions, according to a Sunday Times report.
The newspaper reported that while 42 prisoners throughout the country passed the 2012 matric exams, Chris Mazibuko of the Westville Prison was the top prison student, with an average of 79.25 percent.
Mazibuko said studying and writing the exams behind bars was not an easy task.
"The environment here is very straining. We had some gang clashes that interrupted our classes in July.
"The cells are full and sometimes it's very difficult to study," he was quoted as saying.
The 23-year-old obtained an A in IsiZulu, English, life orientation, business studies, and economics. He got 61 percent for accounting but failed maths, obtaining 28 percent.
Mazibuko was arrested in 2006 after he and a friend were implicated in a robbery.
He told the paper he would put his achievement to good use when he was released on parole next month.
Meanwhile, Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele said that from April all inmates without a Grade 9 or equivalent qualification would be forced to undergo adult basic education.