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Hub for Multilingual Education and Literacies (HuMEL)

The Hub for Multilingual Education and Literacies (HuMEL) is a research and development centre producing world-class research into the use of more than one language for accessing knowledge, under the leadership of Prof. Leketi Makalela.

The Hub is a second home to distinguished researchers; world-class scholars, teachers and postgraduate students from many parts of the world. Our work is based on the premise that deeper levels of thinking and identity development are attained through the strategic use of multiple languages and literacies.

Research Overview

The purpose of the Hub is to research multilingual education and multilingual literacies.

Investment in Research

22 funded postgraduate students are affiliated with the Centre through grant-holder linked bursaries. They attend supervision and writing retreats under the mentorship of expert researchers in the field. In addition, the Centre's Resident Researcher's Programme offers guidance to advanced PhD students and postdoc fellows.


Exchange programmes and visits from prominent researchers contribute to the internationalisation initiative. An open invitation to collaborate is extended to distinguished scholars.

Community Engagement

Through action research, the Centre engages with communities as an equal partner. The goal is to bring about sustainable multilingual literacy initiatives.

Such initiatives include:

  • In-service teacher support projects
  • Literacy camps
  • Engagement with the elderly
Research Thrusts


This thrust questions the validity of boundaries between languages and literacies.

Multilingual Reading Literacy Studies

Research projects focus on edumetric literacy measures in more than one language to screen, diagnose and monitor reading development of grades 1-10 over a longitudinal scale. Reading comprehension, oral reading proficiency, classroom print environment, teacher pedagogy and parental/family involvement are all areas of investigation under this thrust.

Writing and Transcultural Literacies

This thrust begins from the early literacy foundation of writing as a way of thinking and idea-focused. There is also an emphasis on how the ‘contact of various cultural and linguistic funds of knowledge that correlate with successful academic writing.

Intellectualisation and Digitisation of African Languages

This thrust engages in the collection of a reliable corpus in multilingual interactions to develop a lexical pool for African languages, to stored digitally for retrieval and use across the curriculum.

Indigenous Literacies

Research programmes under this thrust seek to understand indigenous literacy systems in order to develop, modernise and use in the current education system.

Non-mother Tongue Learning and Teaching in Multilingual Contexts

The research projects under this thrust address two interlinked problems:  teaching English to speakers of African languages and teaching and developing methodologies for teaching African languages to speakers of other languages. 

Multilingual Language in Education Policy, Planning and Management

 This thrust addresses the questions on various domains of language policy and planning design, implementation and management in multilingual schools and institutions of higher learning.

Language, Race, and Gender

This research theme focuses on the intersection between language, race and gender in a highly complex multilingual, multi-ethnic, and multi-racial societies. 

Inclusive Literacies

This research theme focuses on classrooms and teacher practices that respond to the diverse backgrounds and different learning needs of students.

School, home and multilingual literacies This project investigates the interface between school and home literacy by drawing upon ethnographic documentation of translingual strategies. These were used in classrooms and home literacy spaces in three provinces (Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga).
Multilingual readers, writers and pedagogical strategies This is a Blue Sky project that follows an unconventional literacy research and development programme. It investigates alternative literacy pathways for multilingual readers in the foundation phase.
Languaging through Sign Language Research and a series of developmental projects raise awareness of the value of Sign Language and its speakers. The interface of Sign Language and South African indigenous languages is at the core of HUMEL’s programmes.
Human capacity development: Literacy and technology The aim of the project is to develop the next generation of scholars with research literacy processes and content of infusing technology in literacy events for early-grade children.
Indigenous literacy for early readers The project's goal is to infuse indigenous literacy content into the foundation phase classroom. This is achieved through interactive reading, music and storytelling.
Wits Writing Project (WWP) This intensive writing project aims to improve teachers’ writing and instructing abilities. It takes place over 3 weeks. During the sessions, teachers engage with the pedagogy, theory and practice of writing in multilingual classrooms.