Minister Schäfer was born in Pietermaritzburg and attended primary school in Johannesburg, before moving to Cape Town where she matriculated from Bergvliet High School in 1984.
She graduated with an LLB from the University of Cape Town in 1990 after completing a BA degree, majoring in English and Psychology.
She practiced as an attorney of the Cape High Court for 12 years before starting her political career as a City Councillor.
Minister Schäfer became a Member of Parliament in 2009 where she served as the Deputy Shadow Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. She was a member of the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee.
She served on her daughters' primary school governing body for a number of years. She also served on the Council of False Bay College until last year.
She was sworn in as Minister of Education in the Western Cape on 26 May 2014.