New ‘Snakes and Ladders’ Game Exposes Global Education Crisis

Global leaders receive game ahead of next week’s UN General Assembly Dr Who actor Pearl Mackie backs campaign to highlight education crisisOne billion children - 60% of global total - are currently not in school

 A new Snakes and Ladders game in which players are confronted with obstacles to attending school – from being a refugee to schools shutting because of Covid-19 – has been created to highlight the education crisis facing millions of children around the world.

Keys and Locks: The Education Game, has been launched by the global children’s  charity Theirworld in the run-up to next week’s United Nations General Assembly where global leaders will meet to address the world’s biggest challenges.

The charity wants to ensure that education is top of the agenda and is kept “off the chopping block” as governments and donors re-assess their budgets post Covid-19.

In a twist on the classic board game, players roll the dice and move their counters around the board, landing on spaces that hinder or help their education. 

If they land at the bottom of a ladder, they move up and acquire a key to unlock an educational opportunity. This might be because they live in a country which invests in pre-primary education or because they have been lucky enough to receive digital training. 

If they land on a down arrow, they are faced with a barrier that locks them out of education and they must slide down the board. This might be because they are a refugee or because they have been forced to leave school to work or to get married. 

Theirworld has sent a copy of the game to 10 world leaders who the charity believes have the power to make a difference to the global children’s education crisis by the end of this year – including Baroness Liz Sugg, the UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education and Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development. 

The campaign is being supported by Pearl Mackie, the actor and Theirworld supporter, who is providing the voiceover for the film to support it. 

Even before the pandemic, there were 260 million children around the world not in school. This crisis has now deepened. It is estimated that the number of children without physical schools to attend now stands at around a billion  – more than 60% of the world’s children.

It is believed that budget cuts to education and rising poverty caused by Covid-19 could force almost 10 million children out of school permanently by the end of this year.

Sarah Brown, chair of Theirworld, said:

“We firmly believe that quality education is the key to unlocking a child’s potential. Education should never be a game of chance. But for millions of children currently locked out of school, education is just like the roll of a dice. 

“This is the most challenging moment for global education for many decades. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than half of the world’s children left primary school with little or no literacy and numeracy skills.

“The pandemic has only created more pressure. It is estimated that 30 million additional children will never return to school after schools reopen, with girls, the most vulnerable and the poorest worst affected.

“As the world prepares to meet, albeit in new circumstances, for the United Nation General Assembly in a few weeks, the need for strong leadership and investment in education is more important than ever.”


Pearl Mackie, the actor and Theirworld supporter, said: 

Education should never be a game of chance. Every child, no matter who they are or where they live, should be given a safe place to learn and the opportunity for a brighter future. 

“It’s unacceptable that for millions of children around the world, education is out of reach. We all share a responsibility to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic does not cost a generation of children their futures. It’s time for decisive action to ensure that a quality education is possible for every child on the planet.

The campaign video featuring two children playing the game is available here

You can register here to attend Theirworld’s digital event on Monday, September 21, where world leaders, philanthropists and youth advocates will discuss what action needs to be taken to end the global education crisis. 


Notes to Editors

About Theirworld

Theirworld is a global children’s charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation. Its mission is to ensure that every child has the best start in life, a safe place to learn and the skills they need for the future.


For more information, please contact:


Nicole Martin

Head of Partnerships and Media

[email protected]