Dr Theuns Eloff

Bio of Dr Theuns Eloff


Between 1972 and 1989 Theuns Eloff obtained B-degrees in law and theology, and masters and doctoral degrees in theology at the PU for CHE. In 1982 he became pastor of the Reformed Church Brooklyn-Pretoria, but after the "Dakarsafari" in 1987, he left the ministry in 1989 and in 1990 and became head of the Consultative Business Movement”. He was involved in the facilitation and planning of the National Peace Convention, head of the CODESA Secretariat and head of Administration of the Multiparty Negotiation Process (1992-1993). He became CEO of the National Business Initiative in 1995. In 2002 he became Vice-Chancellor of his Alma Mater, and later first Vice-Chancellor of the new North-West University (2004-2014). Between 2005 and 2013 he served as chairperson of Higher Education SA, chairperson of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, chairperson of Aardklop and president of the AHI (Afrikaans Commercial Institute). He is currently chairperson of the Dagbreek Trust, the Trust vir Afrikaanse Onderwys, the Trust vir Afrikaanse Kuns, Kultuur en Erfenis and of Astral Foods. He was executive director of the F W de Klerk Foundation from July 2016 to the end of May 2019. He is also chairman of the newly formed company the MOS Initiative (Mother-tongue Education in Independent Schools) that buys, builds and manages Afrikaans independent schools. He is also co-chairing the Afrikaner-African Initiative, a partnership between a number of Afrikaner organisations and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation since May 2021, aimed at reconciliation, dialogue and collaborative projects in education, agriculture and economics. He is the recipient of several awards, including the JCI's Ten Outstanding Persons of the World and the WEF's "100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow", all well as an honorary doctorate from London South Bank University. He is an extraordinary professor at the Potchefstroom Business School. He is married to Suzette, with two daughters, one son-in-law and three granddaughters. They live in Pretoria.


Tussen 1972 en 1989 verwerf Theuns Eloff B-grade in regte en teologie, en meesters- en doktorsgrade in teologie aan die PU vir CHO. In 1982 word hy predikant van die Gereformeerde Kerk Brooklyn-Pretoria, maar na die “Dakarsafari” in 1987, verlaat hy die bediening in 1989 en word in 1990 hoof van die “Consultative Business Movement”. Hy was betrokke by die fasilitering en beplanning van die Nasionale Vredeskonvensie en hoof van die Kodesa-sekretariaat en Administrasie van die Veelparty-onderhandelingsproses (1992-1993), en in 1995 hoof van die Nasionale Besigheidsinisiatief. In 2002 word hy rektor van sy Alma Mater, en later eerste Visekanselier van die nuwe Noordwes-Universiteit (2004-2014). Tussen 2005 en 2013 dien hy as voorsitter van Hoër Onderwys SA, voorsitter van die Vereniging van Statebondsuniversiteite, voorsitter van Aardklop en president van die AHI (Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut.) Hy is tans voorsitter van die Dagbreek Trust, die Trust vir Afrikaanse Onderwys, die Trust vir Afrikaanse Kuns, Kultuur en Erfenis en van Astral Foods. Hy was van Julie 2016 tot einde Mei 2019 uitvoerende direkteur van die F W de Klerk Stigting. Hy is ook voorsitter van nuutstigte maatskappy (die MOS-Inisiatief - Moedertaal in Onafhanklike Skole-beweging) wat Afrikaanse onafhanklike skole koop, bou en bestuur. Hy is ook sedert Mei 2021 medevoorsitter van die Afrikaner-African Initiative,’n vennootskap tussen ‘n aantal Afrikanerorganisasies en die Thabo Mbeki Stigting gemik op versoening, dialoog en saamwerkprojekte onder andere in die onderwys, landbou en ekonomie. Hy ontvang verskeie toekennings, waaronder die JCI se Ten Outstanding Persons of the World en die WEF se “100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow”, en ‘n eredoktorsgraad van London South Bank University. Buitengewone professor by die Potchefstroomse Besigheidsskool. Hy is getroud met Suzette, met twee dogters, een skoonseun en drie kleindogters. Hulle woon in Pretoria.

Abstract To be presented

Mother-tongue eduation in South African Schools – a pipe dream?

Against the background of the state’s constitutional mandate to promote indigenous South Afrikcan languages, and the reality of the last 30 years of neglect in this regard, this paper asks the question whether mother-tongue education (MTE) remains a pipe dream for South Africa’s learners.
On the first question – why MTE should be implemented – the paper looks at international research and experience and gives four compelling reasons, i.e. to prevent exclusion, to improve illiteracy, to enhance the ability to learn other languages and to enhance performance. Some South African experiences are also cited.
On the second question why MTE is not being implemented, five factors are discussed: the lack of understanding of international research and experience, the governing party’s lip service to multilingualism and the quest to build one (English-speaking) nation, the multilingual settings in urban schools, the perceived cost of MTE and the perceived benefits of English as an international language (and political correctness).
The third question deals with the question on how SA can get to a situation where MTE would be implemented. There needs to be a multi-sectorial campaign to propagate the need and advantages of MTE, as well as more information about international research and other African experiences. In addition, a focus should be on the African youth (especially in rural areas), finding champions among mother tongue speakers of African languages themselves and finally, convincing the ANC government that MTE is not only affordable, but necessary.
Finally, the case for retaining Afrikaans MTE is made, because it is a constitutional right and practicably possible, it is International best practice, and it has a constitutionally based cultural function. Afrikaans MTE should, however, be practised on a non- racial basis.