The Precarious Status of French in Senegal

The shift away from French in West-African education is, to say the least, a rather under-reported topic. The reason why this trend tends to escape the notice of observers is the slow pace at which it is happening, only Rwanda having enough determination to completely scrap French from primary education. In the introduction to her "Sounding Off: Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean", Julie Huntington gives an aperçu of the situation of French in Senegal.
Although French is the official language of Senegal, many Senegalese citizens do not speak French, particularly in rural locations like Keur Momar Sarr. In rural areas, people tend to speak their maternal languages at home with their families. Some of these languages, including Mandingué, Bambara, and Balanta, are minority languages that are not represented by the Senegalese government as national languages. For those minority language speakers who do business outside of their villages, a vehicular language is often utilized for the purposes of communication and commerce.
Generally speaking, Wolof is the preferred vehicular language in northern Senegal (the part of Senegal north of the Gambia), and Dioula is the preferred vehicular language in southern Senegal (the part of Senegal south of the Gambia), although other languages like Serer, Pular, Malinké, and Soninké are preferred in specific subregions. Although French remains the official language of secondary and University education, in recent years, the Senegalese government has encouraged a shift away from French to Senegalese languages in elementary education, particularly in rural areas where residents are less likely to speak French. (...) 7. Whereas 80 percent of Senegalese citizens speak Wolof as a maternal or foreign language, about 15 to 20 percent of Senegalese speak French. Although this information is published in book form (see Leclerc 1992), the most up-to-date information is available on Leclerc’s Web site, Aménagement linguistique dans le monde, at http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl.

The following excerpt (pp. 69-70) from the same book describe the absurdity of the language situation in Senegal. French is an obstacle to the development of the country as most of its inhabitants don't understand it at all. It will not be possible to alphabetize West-Africa as long as primary education remains in French. La Francophonie is chiefly about pressuring third-world governments into ramming the French language down their populace's collective throat even at the cost of development.
Indeed, local language instruction is deemed by many to be a prerequisite to alphabetization and development in Africa. It is, therefore, a promising sign to see primary instruction gradually shifting away from French in countries such as Senegal.