Educated at the Lutheran Mission school at Okahandja until 1950 when he went to the Herero school in Windhoek in 1950. He returned to the government run Augustinian College at Okahandja in 1959 for the last two years of his schooling.
He began working in Windhoek in 1961 as a clerk with a firm of lawyers and saved his money for further education. Through a UN mission visiting Windhoek he was able to apply for a United States scholarship to Stanford University, California. To take it up he had to go to Dar es Salaam first so he planned his escape and set off in September 1962. After crossing into Botswana with two companions he was arrested by Rhodesian police and imprisoned for three weeks in Plumtree jail. He was part of a forced labour squad, required to dig graves and bury people who died in hospital.
Extradited in handcuffs and chained to his two friends as illegal immigrants he was on a train bound for South Africa on October 13, 1962, when he was rescued at Gaborone by the British Resident Commissioner. Eventually he arrived in Dar es Salaam on December 18, 1962 too late to take up his
American scholarship. Instead, he received a Nigerian scholarship and on January 13, 1963, began a two-year course at Umuahia Government College in the Eastern Region.
On his return to Dar es Salaam in May 1965 he began a university course in history and law but gradually became so absorbed in SWAPO work that he abandoned his studies in January 1968. President Nujoma, who chose Katjavivi as his executive assistant for a visit to China in 1967, sent him to run the London bureau in February 1968. Subsequently a much travelled man, he attended the sessions of the International Court of Justice at The Hague as an observer in June 1971 when the advisory opinion was delivered against South Africa retaining control of Namibia. On October 5, 1971, he appeared with Nujoma at the UN Security Council hearings on South-West Africa. In May 1972 he went to Geneva for meetings of the International Red Cross.
One of SWAPO’s brightest “ideas men”, skilled in mustering international support for the liberation movement. A gifted organiser responsible for much of the preparation for the Namibia International Conference at Brussels in May 1972. A clear-thinking pragmatist with a shrewd eye for maintaining political balance between East and West. Basically shy with traces of a stammer, Katjavivi has proved an impressive advocate at the United Nations and in meetings with ministers in many capitals.