Krubiel and Natnael are teenage brothers who developed software at a young age. Their mentor and teacher, Yacob Merhawi, who marvels at how quickly they make things up, describes them as great teenagers that Eritrea is blessed with. What they have created is an essential step towards Eritrea’s digital education.
Thanks for your time, so let’s get to know you.
My name is Natnael Henok. I am 15 years old, I am a 10th grader at Keih Bahri High School.
My name is Krubiel Henok. I am 13 years old and I am learning in seventh grade at Freselam High School.
You are the founders of Learn.net and many other projects. Enlighten us on your projects?
Krubiel: Learn.net is networking software that aims to connect, uplift and entertain and, most importantly, create a platform for students and young people in general to acquire knowledge. We started developing it on January 5, 2021 and finished the project last May. The current version of Learn.net is a suite encompassing various web applications. The apps included are: Bookstore, App Bank, Educational Videos, Educational Games, Ask How, Creativity Center, Cyclone, Invent Box, Emergency Toolbox, Music Web, Life Tips, Quote Board, What’s Up nine and Wikipedia. In addition, Learn.net is available in two languages: English and Tigrigna. When we noticed that many students nowadays have access to Android phones, we made sure that Learn.net has its own mobile phone app that is compatible with the Android operating system to help users connect to a server without any browser application.
Our other project is the School Database Control (SDC), a website that allows a school to access their data digitally. We observed technical errors in the database control system currently used by the Ministry of Education and set out to create a better version.
Natnael: In addition to developing websites, we have created applications for mobile phones. One of the apps is called Hagery; it is a compilation of 15 poems by the famous poet Awel Sied. The other application is Eri-Wallpapers; we have collected many old and new photos from different sites in Eritrea and created an app which allows you to make it as your phone wallpaper. Qenietat Tigrigna is our third app; it is based on the book written in 1994 by Berhane Zerai. We thought of it as a game; these are sentences and words that have double meanings. It intrigues, informs and entertains users. We have two apps still in development – one called Saida, the Tigrigna version of an app called Flow. It is specially designed for pregnant women. The other app still in the works is a compilation of songs by Abraham Afworki, including lyrics. We believe he is a legend and that his work should be made more accessible and preserved for posterity.
What inspired you to create these projects?
Natnael: The main thing that inspired us to develop Learn.net is the limits of the analog tools and the connectivity and interactivity resources that we have witnessed. We wanted to achieve an innovative digital learning, mentoring and informal learning experience through our website. We also wanted to make sure that all young people, regardless of their background, could thrive and use their potential. Above all, we wanted everyone to have easy access to educational materials.
Krubiel: The reason we developed these apps is that they seemed very essential to our community. For example, we were inspired to create the Hagery app because almost everyone around us collected videos of the poet. Imagine the space it could take, the time and energy you devote to researching each poem. So we decided to collect them all and make them accessible to everyone.
Your skills are very visible in your products, which appear to have been built by a computer engineer. How did you get there?
Krubiel: When I was in fourth grade, I signed up for a basic programming course. Then Natnael joined me shortly after. We took all four levels of the course, then moved on to robotics. But it was when we were in partial confinement because of the Covid-19 that we further developed our skills. We studied other programming languages, watched video tutorials, and our mom provided us with the books we needed. To show our capabilities, we created our first software at the request of our father. The software we developed was inventory report control software for the Ministry of Finance.
Speaking of your father, tell us about your parents and their role in your journey?
Krubiel: Our father, Henok Kudus, works at the Ministry of Finance. and our mother, Seble Haile, is a microbiology instructor at the Mainefhi Institute of Technology. The role of our parents was crucial. Since we were kids they bought us laptops and all the gadgets we needed. They have supported us a lot and give us the freedom to try whatever we want. When we learned to program, they were the ones who came up with the ideas for what to create, and if we have an idea, they are the first to evaluate it. Overall, they have been our cornerstone on this trip.
What obstacles have you encountered?
Natnael: Our main obstacle has been the Covid-19. In order for websites to be usable, we had to do meta-testing, specifically Learn.net, which was supposed to be tested on students, and we couldn’t do that. In addition, society’s knowledge of digital education is so low that we need a platform to advertise and educate people about the importance of the web, and we have not reached the platform so far. Of course, as we said, our parents do their best to provide us with the resources we need, but sometimes we are faced with a shortage of resources.
We want to thank our parents, our mentors, Eng. Sham Mesfin for his advice every step of the way, our uncle, Eng. Henok Haile, and our teacher, Yacob Merhawi, for working tirelessly with us on the mobile apps we create.
Thanks and good luck!