Moses Taunyane received a standing ovation at a graduation ceremony at Benoni Town Hall, Ekurhuleni, last Friday.
Taunyane, 43, of Katlehong, outshone 64 other convicts from various prisons in Gauteng, and was honoured as the "top achiever", boasting an 85% pass mark.
Family, friends and correctional services officials applauded the offenders' achievements, who received qualifications from distance learning institutions.
The proud, but modest, Taunyane was awarded with a Theory of Music certificate from the University of South Africa.
"I am very happy although I am still struggling to understand why I was chosen the best," Taunyane said.
Taunyane has already served seven years of his 14-year sentence for robbery at Modderbee Prison.
He says his stay in prison has helped him reflect on the wrongs that he did. "Doing time in prison has helped me shift my focus and concentrate on improving my life. All I want to do now is to make my daughter proud, so that she can realise the good in me."
Taunyane's goal is to qualify as a music teacher.
"I wish not only to continue teaching music in prison, but to reach disadvantaged schools where there are few qualified music teachers."
Spokesman for the department of correctional services, Patrick Thobejane, said the graduation ceremony is held every year to "acknowledge the achievements of those who haVE performed well and to motivate others".
"It forms part of the rehabilitation of offenders and to prepare them for life outside prison," said Thobejane.
Though the prisoners have to pay for their studies, the department assists them by providing special cells for studying, posting their assignments and doing all their administrative issues.
Thobejane said that prisons also ran market-related skills training, sport, recreational art and cultural programmes.