World Bank Highlights Severe Impact of Absenteeism on Nigeria’s Health and Education Sectors

The World Bank has revealed alarming statistics regarding the significant financial and qualitative impact of absenteeism among health workers and teachers on Nigeria’s public expenditure. According to the latest Human Capital Public Expenditure and Institutional Review on Nigeria, absenteeism in these critical sectors results in a loss of up to 34 per cent of public expenditure.

Financial Impact of Absenteeism

The report indicates that absenteeism among health workers and teachers is a substantial factor undermining the quality and efficiency of public spending in Nigeria's education and health sectors. Specifically, 13 per cent of public expenditure in education and 21 per cent in health are lost due to absenteeism. This leakage translates to significant financial losses. For example, in Lagos State alone, the education and health systems lost $6.7 million in 2021 due to absenteeism, with $3.6 million lost in education and $3.1 million in health.

Teacher Absenteeism

The World Bank’s Service Delivery Indicator Survey presents a grim picture of teacher absenteeism. On average, 13.7 per cent of teachers were found to be absent from school. Among those present, about 19.1 per cent were not in the classroom teaching. When teachers were present, they spent an average of 20.7 per cent of their time on non-teaching activities. Consequently, teachers dedicated less than three-quarters of the scheduled teaching time to actual teaching activities, significantly impacting the quality of education delivered to students.

Health Worker Absenteeism

The situation is equally dire in the health sector. The survey found that 31.7 per cent of health providers who were supposed to be at work were absent during unannounced visits. Urban facilities had higher absence rates at 34.2 per cent compared to 30.0 per cent in rural areas. Absence rates also varied by facility type, with health centres showing the highest overall absence rates at 33.6 per cent and health posts the lowest at 24.3 per cent. Nurses had the highest absence rates at 40.9 per cent, exacerbating the already critical shortage of healthcare personnel.

Broader Implications for Nigeria’s Economy

The report underscores that the Nigerian economy could be up to 2.77 times larger if comprehensive education and health services were provided effectively. This represents an additional growth of approximately 2.06 percentage points annually over the next five decades. The World Bank’s findings highlight the severe implications of absenteeism on the nation’s human capital development and overall economic growth.

Dire State of Public Health and Education

The World Bank’s review paints a bleak picture of Nigeria’s public health and education sectors. Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children globally, the highest number of child deaths under five each year, and the most significant contributor to maternal deaths worldwide (34 per cent). The report states, “Globally, one in every six deaths of children under five is in Nigeria, and one of every 12 children out of school globally is Nigerian as well. More than 844,000 children die every year in Nigeria before they reach their fifth birthday. This constitutes the largest number registered anywhere in the world.”

Insufficient Public Spending

The review also highlights that Nigeria’s overall public spending, at merely 12 per cent of GDP, is insufficient to finance essential public services. This level of investment falls short of the Sub-Saharan African average of 17.2 per cent. The World Bank notes that over the past five years, Nigeria’s health and education expenditure has fluctuated between 10 and 12 per cent of GDP. “At $23 and $15 per capita, public expenditure on education and health in Nigeria, respectively, is inadequate by any standard. Of the $23 per capita spending on education, states spend $14, and the remainder is spent by the Federal Government. Similarly, of the $15 per capita spending on health, states spend $8.5. This level of spending compares poorly to Nigeria’s peers and is far more inadequate given the need to tackle significant issues such as the high rates of out-of-school children and child mortality,” the report said.

Recommendations for Improvement

To address these critical issues, the World Bank recommends that the Nigerian government significantly increase its investment in health and education. Specifically, it suggests investing at least $1,000 per primary school student to help reduce the country’s poverty rate. “Considering its stage of economic development, Nigeria should ideally be investing at least $1,000 per primary student, which means increasing the per-student expenditure sixfold. Moreover, with a significant number of children not attending school and a rapidly growing school-age population, by 2030 Nigeria would need to increase its investment in basic education ninefold from its 2022 level to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4.”


The World Bank’s Human Capital Public Expenditure and Institutional Review on Nigeria provides a comprehensive analysis of the critical challenges facing the country’s health and education sectors. The findings highlight the urgent need for substantial investment and policy reforms to address the pervasive issue of absenteeism and to improve the overall quality and efficiency of public spending in these essential sectors. Without immediate and significant intervention, the prospects for Nigeria’s human capital development and long-term economic growth remain precarious. #worldbank # TrendingNews #Absenteeism #Health #Bulletin1247


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