Nigeria's Health and Education Sectors Suffer Due to High Absenteeism, World Bank Reports

The World Bank has revealed alarming statistics about Nigeria’s education and health sectors, citing that absenteeism among teachers and health workers leads to significant financial losses. According to the latest Human Capital Public Expenditure and Institutional Review on Nigeria, up to 34% of public expenditures in these crucial sectors are wasted due to absenteeism.

Nigeria’s Health and Education Sectors Suffer Due to High Absenteeism, World Bank Reports

The report highlights that absenteeism is a critical issue affecting the quality and efficiency of spending in Nigeria’s education and health systems. Specifically, it states that 13% of education expenditure and 21% of health expenditure are lost due to this problem. In Lagos State alone, absenteeism cost the education and health systems a staggering $6.7 million in 2021, with $3.6 million lost in education and $3.1 million in health.

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The World Bank’s Service Delivery Indicator Survey provides further insights, revealing that, on average, 13.7% of teachers were absent from school. Of those present, about 19.1% were not in the classroom teaching. Additionally, teachers spend an average of 20.7% of their time on non-teaching activities, resulting in less than three-quarters of scheduled teaching time being used for actual teaching.

In the health sector, the survey found that 31.7% of health providers were absent during unannounced visits. Absence rates were higher in urban facilities at 34.2% compared to 30.0% in rural areas. Among different types of health facilities, health centers had the highest absence rates at 33.6%, while health posts had the lowest at 24.3%. Nurses exhibited the highest absenteeism rate at 40.9%.

The consequences of such high absenteeism rates are severe. The World Bank projects that Nigeria’s economy could be up to 2.77 times larger if comprehensive education and health services were provided. This translates to an additional growth of approximately 2.06 percentage points annually over the next five decades.

The report paints a grim picture of Nigeria’s public health and education sectors, highlighting that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children, under-five deaths, and maternal deaths globally. One in six deaths of children under five worldwide occurs in Nigeria, and one in twelve out-of-school children globally is Nigerian. Annually, more than 844,000 children in Nigeria die before their fifth birthday.

Public spending in Nigeria is alarmingly low, constituting just 12% of the gross domestic product (GDP), below the Sub-Saharan African average of 17.2%. Over the past five years, health and education expenditure has fluctuated between 10% and 12% of GDP, which is insufficient to provide essential public services. Public spending per capita on education and health stands at $23 and $15, respectively, far below the necessary levels.

To address these issues, the World Bank recommends that Nigeria invest at least $1,000 per primary school student to mitigate the poverty rate. Given the current economic development stage, this means increasing per-student expenditure sixfold. With the rapidly growing school-age population, Nigeria would need to increase its investment in basic education ninefold by 2030 to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, which focuses on quality education.

The World Bank’s report demonstrates the urgent need for Nigeria to address absenteeism in its health and education sectors to prevent further financial losses and improve overall public service delivery. Increased investment and stricter accountability measures are crucial for the country’s growth and development.