A new sixth form centre named in memory of former Chigwell School student, Risham Sarao, was officially opened at the school by her family and the television presenter and Old Chigwellian, Ben Shephard.
Headmaster, Michael Punt, described The Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre as a “hub for learning” with six classrooms, study and social spaces and a centre for careers and university advice. Risham’s family are among the benefactors who have made the project possible and were joined by TV presenter Ben Shephard OC for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The opening ceremony was attended by 250 parents, staff, Governors, Old Chigwellians and friends of Risham, as well as those who had designed and built the Centre. The Chaplain, Father Simon Paul, led a brief reflection of Risham’s life and blessed the Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre.
Risham attended Chigwell from the age of eleven until she left at the end of her sixth form studies. She went on to study business and Spanish at Manchester University but she sadly died in a road accident while travelling in Peru in 2009, at the age of 21. Risham’s uncle, Dr Malvinder Sohi, said: “It is a very emotional day for us; it is sad but also a matter of great pride for us to be associated with such a brilliant child. The only way to keep her name living is to create such a thing as the Centre where we are going to create many Rishams by giving a wonderful environment. This centre will live probably many generations beyond those Risham would have thought she would have lived. The family’s loss and the school’s loss left an enormous vacuum. It became very important to replace that with something that would be permanent and beneficial for future generations. Risham was denied a beautiful life. In her name we had a duty to the future generations of the school to ensure that they can benefit from Risham’s life and aspirations. The Centre will provide a place and opportunity to all those who want to achieve world class education in the most modern and natural environment and enhance those who are inspired by Risham’s life.”
Ben Shephard said: “It’s just an extraordinary facility and I’m very envious. I was lucky enough to come to Chigwell and had an amazing time here but we (former students who he met at the opening) have all been talking about how much we would have enjoyed the opportunity to be here, to work in this sort of environment and have the opportunity to take in the surroundings. It is a really, really fabulous tribute to Risham.
“This will allow Chigwell sixth formers to grow and become well-rounded individuals that will be able to take on any opportunities that come their way – to be inquisitive, to be adventurous, to be courageous – all of those really important elements as you go into professional life are incredibly important. The sixth formers will be proud to be in here; they will want to do their work here; they will want to see their other classmates here. They are going to be filled with a huge amount of pride and that’s something you can’t put a price on.’
Risham’s family are planning to commission a bust of Risham to go in the new building, and will provide an award to be presented annually to an outstanding sixth form student.