DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Violence in Mali's northern region over four years has forced hundreds of schools to close and teachers to leave, depriving thousands of children of an education, the United Nations Children's Fund said Friday.
More than 380,000 children aged 7 to 15 are still out of school in unsafe regions in northern Mali three months into the school year, UNICEF said Friday. More than 280 schools have closed in northern Mali, some for the third year in a row after being damaged, looted or occupied by fighting groups.
In Kidal, nearly 80 percent of schools remain closed, and parents keep their children home because the journey to school remains unsafe, said the U.N. report.
"Children in northern Mali know too well the impact of conflict, poverty and deprivation," said Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in Mali. "Education is their best hope for the future."
Mali's northern half fell to separatists, and then Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led military intervention drove the extremists out of major towns, but north and central Mali remain insecure.
One school opened in Kidal in October, after the Tuareg separatist movement which controls the city confirmed there is adequate security for the students.
However, nearly 600 teachers who fled conflict in the north are no longer going to work, the agency said.
The unrest has displaced 60,000 people within Mali and another 139,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries, the U.N. said.
The U.N. has started a two-year campaign in the areas of Gao, Kidal, Mopti, Segou and Timbuktu, it said. UNICEF will give training and materials to about 2,000 teachers and school kits for up to 100,000 children. Schools will also be rehabilitated and some accelerated programs will offer learning via radio lessons.