It's five years ago this week since a television presenter returned to his old school to open a sixth form centre named in memory of a former student who died while travelling in South America.

A former student’s “spirit has been kept alive” with the opening of a new sixth form centre.

On Saturday, September 17, television presenter and Old Chigwellian Ben Shephard joined the family of Risham Sarao to officially open the new building at the Chigwell School in the High Road.

Ms Sarao was at the school from the age of 11 until the end of sixth form, before going on to study business and Spanish at Manchester University.

But she died in a road crash while travelling in Peru in 2009 at the age of 21.

Headmaster Michael Punt described her as an “excellent student in every way” and said the new building will serve as a memorial to her.

The Risham Sarao Sixth Form Centre includes six classrooms, study and social space and a centre for careers and university advice.

Ms Sarao’s family were among the benefactors to the project.

Her uncle Dr Malvinder Sohi said: “It is a very emotional day for us, it's sad but also a matter of great pride for us to be associated with such a brilliant child.”

He added: “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.”

Ms Sarao’s relatives were joined by the Good Morning Britain and former GMTV presenter and ex-student Ben Shephard for the official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The presenter said he was “absolutely blown away” by the centre and added: “I was lucky enough to come to Chigwell and had an amazing time here but we [former students] 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.”

Ms Sarao’s family plan to commission a bust of her for the new building and will provide an annual award to an outstanding sixth form student.