The United Nations Children's Fund says violence in Mali's northern region over four years has forced the closure of hundreds of schools and the departure of teachers, depriving thousands of children of an education.

UNICEF said Friday that 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. 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.

Mali's northern half fell to separatists and then to Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led military intervention drove the extremists out of major towns, but the rebels continue launching attacks in north and central Mali.