Deputy will stand in for minister
Many schools countrywide open today and departmental officials will be visiting them to assess their readiness for the new year.
Education Minister Naledi Pandor is out of the country, but her deputy, Enver Surty, will be touring Limpopo.
Other senior education officials will be visiting other provinces where schools will be opening today.
"The focus will not be on matriculants only because what happens in grade 1 is equally important," said education's director general Duncan Hindle.
He said the national Education Department was intensifying its learner attainment programme in all grades.
Hindle said the learner attainment programme was a success, despite the decline in the pass rate for the third consecutive year.
"I think its working. The evidence is there."
Pass rates in some schools were improving after intervention.
He said more attention would be given to schools in poor areas which lacked resources.
"In part, professional support as well as subject advice and basic resources, such as textbooks and equipment, will be provided for."
Most of these schools would get increased funding this year.
"The real successes in our system are those schools which are achieving well beyond expectations with minimum resources," he said.
Hindle admitted that during the opening days there might be pupils being taught under trees.
"You may find that [pupils under trees] on the opening day, but a day or two later the provincial government will provide a mobile classroom to ensure kids are not under trees."
Provincial governments had made mobile classrooms available for this purpose, he told Sowetan.
Hindle said the officials visiting the schools today would congratulate those which had done well, and would encourage those where there was room for improvement.
Hindle said no target had been set for the matric pass rate.
"We never set targets for pass rates. It's dangerous to set targets. "Our target is to improve."