July 24, 2024

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Absenteeism Cripples Nigeria’s Education and Health Systems, World Bank Report Warns

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Nigeria’s investment in education and healthcare is being significantly undermined by widespread absenteeism among teachers and health workers, according to a new report by the World Bank.

The report, titled “Human Capital Public Expenditure and Institutional Review,” estimates that absenteeism is responsible for a staggering 34% loss in public expenditures for these crucial sectors.

This alarming figure translates to a significant financial drain. The report highlights that Lagos State alone loses an estimated $6.7 million annually due to absenteeism in education and health systems, with $3.6 million coming from education and $3.1 million from healthcare.

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“Due to the absenteeism of teachers and health workers, up to 13 per cent of public expenditures in education and 21 per cent of public expenditures in health are lost.

Teachers Missing in Action

The World Bank’s Service Delivery Indicator Survey paints a concerning picture of teacher absenteeism in Nigeria. The survey found that on average, a disturbing 13.7% of teachers were absent from school on the day of the unannounced visit.

But even those who were physically present weren’t necessarily delivering quality education. The report reveals that of the teachers who were at school, a significant portion (19.1%) were not actively engaged in teaching. Additionally, even when present in class, teachers were found to dedicate only an average of 20.7% of their time to actual teaching activities.

These combined factors paint a worrying picture of lost learning opportunities for Nigerian students. The report estimates that when absenteeism and non-teaching activities are factored in, teachers spend less than three-quarters of their scheduled teaching time on actual instruction.

Absent Healthcare Workers: A Threat to Public Health

The situation in the health sector is equally concerning. The World Bank survey discovered that a staggering 31.7% of randomly selected health providers were absent from work during the unannounced visit.

The report also highlights disparities in absenteeism rates across different types of healthcare facilities. Urban facilities displayed a higher absenteeism rate of 34.2% compared to rural facilities (30.0%). Additionally, health centers had the highest overall absence rate (33.6%) while health posts had the lowest (24.3%).

Nurses were found to have the highest absenteeism rate among healthcare workers at a concerning 40.9%. These absences have a direct impact on the quality of healthcare services available to Nigerians.

Consequences

The World Bank report goes beyond highlighting the financial cost of absenteeism, also emphasizing its detrimental impact on Nigeria’s human capital development. The report estimates that if comprehensive education and health services were provided, Nigeria’s economy could potentially be up to 2.77 times larger. This translates to an additional annual growth of approximately 2.06 percentage points over the next 50 years.

Nigeria currently faces some of the worst health and education outcomes in the world. The report reveals that the country holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of out-of-school children globally, with one in every 12 children out of school being Nigerian. Furthermore, Nigeria has the highest number of children under five who die every year and is the largest contributor to maternal deaths worldwide (34%).

Underinvestment in Education and Healthcare

The report identifies insufficient public spending on education and health as a root cause of the current situation. Overall public spending in Nigeria falls below the threshold necessary to adequately finance these vital services, hovering at just 12% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This figure is significantly lower than the Sub-Saharan African average of 17.2%.

The report further criticizes the level of per capita spending on education and health. At $23 and $15 per capita respectively, Nigeria’s spending falls short by any standard. These figures are even more concerning when compared to Nigeria’s peers and considering the urgent need to address issues like high child mortality rates and a large number of out-of-school children.

Recommendations

The World Bank recommends a significant increase in public spending on education to address these challenges. The report suggests that Nigeria should ideally be investing at least $1,000 per primary school student, which represents a sixfold increase from current levels.

Furthermore, to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 which focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, Nigeria would need to increase its investment in basic education ninefold by 2030.

Read Also: Nigeria Misses NIN Enrollment Target, World Bank Extends $430 Million Project Until 2026

If You Ask Me

The World Bank’s report serves as a wake-up call for the Nigerian government. Widespread absenteeism among teachers and health workers is crippling the country’s education and healthcare systems. To ensure a brighter future for its citizens, Nigeria must prioritize these sectors by increasing investment and tackling worker absenteeism. Only through decisive action can the country improve educational attainment, healthcare delivery, and ultimately, the well-being of its people.

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