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African Engineers: Dr R P Baffour
Dr. R.P. Bafour is well-known in Ghana for having been appointed first as a Ghanaian as the Principal and later as the Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi. A close friend of Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, Dr. Bafour lost his job in 1967 as the then military government removed the last vestiges of Nkrumah’s regime. The author did not arrive in Ghana until February 1971, so he considers himself fortunate to have met the great pioneering engineer who left an indelible mark on Ghana’s leading engineering school.
Founded in 1952 through the amalgamation of several colleges, on land donated by Asantehene (King of Ashanti) Prempeh II, the institution that would become KNUST was initially guided by two distinguished British academics: Dr JP Andrews (1952 – 54). ) and Dr. WE Duncanson (1954 – 1960). Dr. R.P. Bafour was appointed Principal in 1960, the year Kwame Nkrumah formed the Republic of Ghana and succeeded himself as President. Two years later, Dr. Bafour was appointed as the first Vice-Chancellor of the new university. He immediately decided to transform 18 square kilometers of secondary bush into one of the most beautiful university campuses in the world.
In the task he set himself, R.P. Bafour’s friendship with the President was of great help. Stories of those eventful years have become apocryphal. Faculty buildings, student residences, a magnificent assembly hall and an impressive library building were raised from red lateritic soil and surrounded by extensive lawns adorned with flowering shrubs and trees. Shaded tree-lined avenues join academic areas to administrative, community and commercial centers and residential estates.
There came a time when the President was fed up with such great expense, it is said that the Vice-Chancellor would order the foundation of the next great building to be dug and invite his friend to come and see the progress and fund the building. complete Dr. To fund an Olympic-size swimming pool to attract distinguished foreign academics to the university. How Bafour persuaded Nkrumah is a mystery that will probably never be revealed.
Dr. R.P. Bafour left a reputation in Kumasi as a practical, hands-on engineer. It relates how he came upon a state transport bus that broke down while traveling from Kumasi to Accra. He stopped his car and solved the bus problem before starting his journey. On another trip to Accra, he decided to take the train and asked the driver to let him sit in the locomotive and take the controls. Although these stories have been embellished by retelling, it is clear that the first Vice-Chancellor provided a role model for the engineer our country needed and his university sought to train.
Dr. For a few years after Bafour left, and with the former president deposed and out of favor, the University of Kumasi dropped ‘Kwame Nkrumah’ from its name. However, with the passage of time the old feelings subsided and famous names were restored. RP Bafour was invited to receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the university he once led in Kumasi. Some time after the ceremony, the author came upon the great man alone descending the steps of the Great Hall, with his magnificent gown on his stooped shoulders. He looked very shaken and was delaying his departure until he had prepared himself. Ever the gentleman, he responded to the congratulatory words, adding with tears rolling down his cheeks, ‘To think it could happen to me!’
Author Dr. Bafour was last seen in Accra at the university guest house. On this occasion, he gave an elaborate discourse on his latest project. He wanted to build a plant on the coast near his hometown, Cape Coast, to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide by electrolyzing seawater. He felt that this could provide the foundation for the chemical and plastics industry. The old man is gone and the plant hasn’t been built yet, but it will be fitting if it has a name when it eventually becomes a reality.
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