Fact Check: Ministry Of Education In Gaza Did NOT 'Officially Announce' End Of 2023/2024 Academic Year 'As All Students Have Been Killed'

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Ministry Of Education In Gaza Did NOT 'Officially Announce' End Of 2023/2024 Academic Year 'As All Students Have Been Killed' Many Alive

Was the academic year in Gaza suspended because "all students" have died? No, that's not true: Available data suggests that most schoolchildren are still alive, even though the Hamas-Israel war has disrupted their education. While international organizations have drawn attention to the death toll among minors in the war, none state that Gaza's entire school-age population -- some 625,000 children, according to UNICEF -- have been killed in the fighting.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Instagram on December 7, 2023. It began:

If you don't care, something is deeply wrong with you.

A gallery of images began with a screenshot of another post published on October 28, 2023. It said:

Breaking News: The Ministry of Education in Gaza has officially announced the end of the 2023/2024 academic year as all students have been killed.

This is what the claim looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-12-15 at 1.49.35 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri Dec 15 18:49:35 2022 UTC)

The gallery contained one more screenshot of another social media post repeating the claim. The rest of the slides were said to contain the names of the deceased children.

The post on Instagram, however, misrepresented the death toll among the school-age population in Gaza. According to a December 5, 2023, infographic (archived here) published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 3,477 students have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, 2023, when the war began.

That number is not even 1 percent of the "more than 625,000" children, who, according to UNICEF (archived here), are enrolled in Gaza's schools.

Screen Shot 2023-12-15 at 3.00.28 PM.png

(Source: ReliefWeb screenshot taken on Fri Dec 15 20:00:28 2023 UTC)

The same report suggested that these hundreds of thousands of children have experienced major disruptions in their education from school closures, but it did not state these closures meant the school year has been canceled.

Some news websites (for example, here and here) have reported a decision to suspend the academic year, but those articles do not contain a link to the sources of their information.

Lead Stories was not able to verify the existence of an official blanket order to suspend all academic activities in Gaza, but a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which runs dozens of schools in the area, told Lead Stories via WhatsApp on December 15, 2023, that children have not been able to attend the agency's schools since October 7, 2023, "because of the war and because the schools have been turned into shelters."

Recent announcements from the Palestinian Ministry of Education suggested that some educators continue to teach -- at least, to some degree -- during the war.

For example, a statement (archived here) made to mark Palestinian Teacher Day on December 14, 2023, said, as translated by Google Translate:

The Ministry is proud of all teachers who continue to give and demonstrate their affiliation, with continuous giving in person or remotely ... [It} salutes our teachers, at a time when some Gaza teachers, in shelter centers, continue to provide educational events and activities for our students.

No estimate of the civilian death toll in Gaza, including from Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health (archived here), has gotten even remotely close to 625,000 people, a number that would constitute more than one-quarter of the entire enclave's population of roughly 2.1 million people.

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims about the 2023 Hamas-Israel war can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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