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SACAP : Special Women's Month focus

Thursday, 10 August 2017   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Jacquie Cullis
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SACAP announces the new brand ambassador of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme as part of Women's Month.

RPL Candidate Nonhlanhla Ncongwane (middle) is assisted by Munetsi Chiunda, SACAP ICT Manager (left) and
SACAP Professional Statutory Services Manager Nita Schmidlin (right).

Johannesburg, 9 August 2017: Women’s Day holds a special significance in South Africa – and it holds even greater significance for Nonhlanhla Claudia Kemong Ncongwane, the new brand ambassador of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme of the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP). RPL is one of the transformation objectives that forms part of the Women in Architecture, South Africa (WiASA) programme.

Ncongwane, a professional senior architectural technologist, who first received that professional registration category from SACAP in 2004, has 20 years of working experience in architecture and is well on her way to submit all the evidence that is required for the RPL online application by SACAP to prove she is worthy of being recognised and registered as one of the country’s very few black women professional architects. 

In an industry with demonstrably few minority representatives – there are currently only 1091 women registered as professional architects, as against 2830 men, and only 262 women candidates as opposed to 352 men – Ncongwane hopes to be an inspiration for other  women who would like to go further in their chosen profession. 

Ncongwane, who registered her own architectural consulting and project management services practice on Women’s Day back in in 2004, the same year she first registered with SACAP, was chosen as a RPL brand ambassador for her willingness to share her story of hopes and struggles on behalf of a significant number of architectural professionals who have not yet had access to equal opportunity and practical redress for past socioeconomic inequalities in South Africa.

SACAP’s RPL programme is set to enable registered architectural professionals like her to steadily articulate upwards within their chosen profession, without having to sacrifice their full-time employment to their studies – something that is often impossible.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is defined in terms of the SAQA Act 67 of 2008 as follows: “Recognition of prior learning means the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the learning outcomes required for a specified qualification, and the acceptance for purposes of qualification of that which meets the requirements”.

RPL is a key fundamental of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and, particularly in as far as accelerated learning, ensures the redress of past inequalities. Learning can take place through a myriad of mediums in formal, informal and non-formal settings. 

Therefore, the process of recognising prior learning is about:

• Identifying what the candidate knows and can do;

• Matching the candidate’s skills, knowledge and experience to specific standards and the associated assessment criteria of a qualification;

• Assessing the candidate against those standards; and

• Crediting the candidate for skills, knowledge and experience built up through formal, informal and non-formal learning.

Although RPL does not replace any qualifications awarded through studying at SACAP accredited Architectural Learning Sites, it does assist professional architectural draughtspersons, architectural technologists and senior architectural technologists (who can substantiate their learnings with evidence), to reach the next SACAP registration category (all the way towards recognition as a Professional Architect) in a highly competitive yet opportunity-rich industry.

Previous to RPL, the only way for SA’s architectural professionals to gain SACAP registration in a higher category of professional status would be through meeting SACAP’s criteria of applicable tertiary qualifications, coupled with successful completion of the candidacy process.

The RPL programme is a two-stage process – as Ncongwane’s application has been approved, she now enters the first phase, which is an online self-assessment of information from five projects she has completed and which demonstrate that she meets the minimum standards in 10 different architectural outcome areas. If she passes that, she will be invited to present her portfolio of evidence to an adjudication panel.

Ncongwane believes RPL will play a vital role in making the architectural profession more representative 23 years after the dawn of democracy. “In 1987 I matriculated in Swaziland having excelled at technical drawing and felt a passion for architecture. For the next seven years I worked at Messaris Wapenaar Architects, fitting in periods of study to further my professional development. In 1990 I received a Building Drawing Certificate after a semester at Manu Technical College in Johannesburg.

“I wanted to study at the University of Witwatersrand, but the criteria demanded that I study full-time, which I could not do – I needed to continue working,” she says. “Witwatersrand Technikon allowed me to study for six months and work for six months each year.” Four years later in 1994 Ncongwane graduated with a National Higher Diploma. Messaris Wapenaar Architects had provided her with work all along and the ability to complete the practicals that were part of her studies, something for which she is still deeply grateful.

She found her niche doing council and construction drawing work for eight years thereafter; however, she became frustrated with her lack of progress in the industry and became a project administrator at a property management firm. “Although my work mainly consisted of producing council drawings, detail drawings and specification documents for construction, I learnt a tremendous amount and realised I wanted to become an architect. I experienced many frustrations over the years and unfortunately, if certain opportunities just aren’t open to you, there are certain skills you’re not going to be able to fine-tune.”

While assessing the work of various consultants, she realised her draughtsmanship was superior and her enthusiasm for her chosen profession returned. “I knew I could submit better work and realised I should practice architecture again,” she says. “I was inspired to return even though, as a woman, I initially found the industry intimidating. I was the typical ‘little girl in the corner’, not saying much. But that changed with time.”

After a stint working for Ngonyama Okpanum Associates and G. M. Architects, where she was involved with work on the newly designed Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Diepkloof, Soweto, Ncongwane found her construction drawings were highly valued. “Along with my colleagues, I assisted with moving the health department from the casualty building to other available spaces within the hospital in preparation for demolitions to take place and to accommodate the new structure,” she reveals.

In 2004, she registered with SACAP as a Senior Architectural Technologist and became the principal and managing director of an architectural consulting and project management services practice, Nco-Mali Projects cc, which has been involved in a number of significant projects: Bedfordview VIP Government Garages and Loveday VIP Government Garages (commercial); Wisani Medical Properties and Bonalesedi Nursing College (residential); Kalafong Hospital and the TB Centre in Edenvale; three old-age homes; and five schools.

“Challenges and constraints in the working environment inspired me to set up Nco-Mali Projects,” she says. “Once you gain experience in specific areas, you become a lot more confident; you come to know what you are doing, and that shows.”

Ncongwane continues: “Despite being eager to have my 20 years of prior learning honoured and recognised by SACAP, as well as looking forward to the prospect of qualifying for a higher registration category which will help me earn more, I still want to pursue taking my studies further at university. There’s a calibre of knowledge that formal studies offer and I believe such studies are necessary to make me truly excel in architecture and also bring me onto a level with peers who have deep knowledge from university. Qualifying for entrance to do my Honours and Masters on a part time basis has proved difficult so far – the universities are not geared to accommodate mature professionals like me who have family and work commitments – but I am finding a way through!”

Thanks to the RPL programme, Ncongwane and others who have not had comprehensive academic training, but who have gained significant skills, knowledge and experiencing ‘on the job’, can now apply to be recognised as professional architects. “You realise that architecture is everywhere,” she says. “It’s in the office, it’s in the built environment – it’s on site, getting your hands dirty. Even if your lack of qualifications limits you, you can still pursue your passion – which is a message I would like to convey to others interested in the architectural profession.”

RPL provides an alternate, legitimate route to SACAP registration for professionals like Ncongwane, fostering career success as well as urgently needed spatial transformation among communities in South Africa. The outcome is a transformed industry and a people-centred architecture – something SACAP is eager to bring about.



Dock S. Motsilanyane says...
Posted Saturday, 12 August 2017
Congratulations, Nonhlanhla!
Bongane P. Msiza says...
Posted Friday, 11 August 2017
Hey Sisi as I call you, really happy and inspired by the efforts and the recognition of your hard work. Your supervision during my in-service training back in 2004 at Ngonyama Okpanum & Associates has always been a privilege and your constructive criticism has shaped to a competitive professional through your strong technical and contractual intellect. As a trained and qualified Technologist and SAIAT & SACAP registered as Pr.SArch.Tech myself, I have had to study part-time and start working due to financial limitations and this has had me deprived of an opportunity to realise a dream of qualifying to a Pr.Architect due to lack of recognition of some of the university of technologies qualifications by other university institutions within SA in architecture. You shall inspire many black, african and women of all races to realise their dreams and not stop dreaming & pursuing their career within the built environment.... Thanks to SACAP & SAIAT for our recognition!!! Happy Women's Month!
Abraham Moloi says...
Posted Thursday, 10 August 2017
Congrats Nonhlanhla and show them girl. We need more of you in this environment. You deserve to climb the leader through hard your work.....especially in Women Month.