Chasing the green stamp

This term is common amongst architects in Uganda but it essentially means that after 5 years of school, you need to go through another 2 years of training before you can be a certified architect. And with that you are given a green stamp to officially stamp drawings and documents.

Now you would think it’s just two more years, lawyers do it for LDC and medical doctors do it for one year what’s the big deal. Well I’ll tell you, it’s not exactly two years as us normal humans count two years. In real human time it’s like 5 years.

To even start counting your two years there are a couple of things you need ;

1. You need to be a graduate. Anyone who has graduated from Makerere in particular knows finishing school doesn’t equate graduation. So you finish school in May and graduate the next year at the end of January. Not only do you have to graduate but also need to have proof of your graduation hence a certificate😩. The walking back and forth, the lines, the photographer under the stairs of guild. So essentially you have lost a whole year before you can register.

2. You need a placement aka job. You heard me, it requires that the whole graduating class should find jobs at least a few months after graduation to even qualify. And I don’t mean any job, it has to be with a registered architect who has practiced for more than 5 years, has enough projects that will engage you and complex that will teach you. If the firm you work for doesn’t have complex enough work you’ll need to approach a bigger firm to shadow them in order to learn.

3. You need to register with the Uganda Society of Architects (USA), pay registration fees, for log books and annual membership fee. This can amount to almost 500,000ugx for a graduate who is probably earning that much at their placement. All this to an organization that is technically a club with no mandate but have been given authority by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to work on their behalf. Why doesn’t ARB handle us themselves you ask, considering they are the ones government recognizes? The better question is why is it that most people on the ARB board are also on the USA committee? Politics. I should add that USA also holds the exams for certification and collects almost 1.3 million from each person who wishes to sit. After that the ARB shows up to officially approve you and present you with the green stamp.

Why have I labored to explain all this to you, well because so many architects and technicians are out here practicing without that stamp and they even earn more money and do bigger projects than those who have it. You see the most the USA can do to you should they discover you are practicing without a stamp is to suspend you from their club. Now this carries no weight because most of these people are probably not even registererd with the club to begin with.

The law only requires that the drawings and documents be stamped by a registered architect but says nothing about who designs said drawings. And since most projects are technically drawn out and even designed by interns and technicians, all they have to do is design a building and approach an architect to stamp. It is up to the architect to review these drawings before they stamp or even ask for a fee.

I should also add that clients love tax avoidance so it’s easier for them to approach a non registered designer who isn’t claiming any taxes. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) now wants a list of registered architects to follow up but don’t realize that the non registered ones are doing more work. A registered architect is required to hand in a return form for every project they have worked on but all they have to do is choose the forms of work they want taxed.

Oh! did I mention that the USA can accelerate the approval of a graduate architect who has been practicing for many years without ever bothering to register but has made such an impact on the discipline( or has worked for so long and has influence). It’s like an honory certification, all to the discretion of the committee for whom they deem worthy. Politics!

I personally had worked for 2.5 years before I left to do a 2 years masters in architecture, though that doesn’t count in the training requirements. The committee only looks at office practice. Therefore when I returned, it is as if time had paused and I had to pick up where I left off to get my stamp. Getting a job is more difficult because Ugandans don’t usually like hiring someone with a higher degree than them. Most of my former classmates went ahead to get theres, so I was curious to know how this affected their lives. Do their employees pay them more? No. Has it made them better designers? No. Has it attracted more clients and work? No. So what exactly has it done for you? Well they are now accepted into the club🤦🏾‍♀️. And they can now open up their own smaller firms that will close after a year because they can’t compete with bigger companies that have shareholders.

Why exactly am I working so hard to get one then, for one am not a “join the club” kinda girl 🤷🏾‍♀️, or am I?

Published by nkorera

I am creative

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