Learn.net: the product of Beautiful Minds

By Milka Teklom

Krubiel and Natnael are teenage brothers who have developed soft­ware at a young age. Their mentor and teacher, Yacob Merhawi, who is amazed by how quickly they make things, describes them as great teenagers Eritrea is blessed with. What they have created is an essential step toward Eritrea’s digital education.

  • Thank you for your time, so let’s get to know you.

My name is Natnael Henok. I am 15 years old, a 10th grader at Keih Bahri Secondary School.

My name is Krubiel Henok. I am 13 years old and learning in seventh grade at Freselam Junior- Secondary School.

  • You guys are the founders of Learn.net and other many projects. Enlighten us on your projects?
Krubiel Henok

Krubiel: Learn.net is a network software that aims to connect, elevate, and entertain and, above all, to create a platform for students and the young, in general, to gain knowledge. We started developing it on the 5th of January, 2021 and completed the project last May. The current version of Learn.net is a suite package encompassing different web applications. The apps included are: Book Store, App Bank, Educational Videos, Educational Games, Ask How, Creativity Centre, Cyclone, Invent Box, Emergency Toolkit, Music Web, Life Tips, Quote Chart, What’s New and Wikipedia. Also, Learn.net is made available in two languages — English and Tigrigna. When we noticed that many students these days have access to Android phones, we made sure Learn.net has its own Mobile Phone Application compatible with Android OS to help users connect to a server without any browsing app.

Our other project is the School Database Control (SDC), a web that enables a school to access its data digitally. We observed some technical errors in the database control system that is currently used by the Ministry of Education and set out to create a better version.

Natnael Henok

Natnael: Besides developing webs, we have created mobile phone apps. One of the apps is called Hagery; it’s a compilation of 15 poems by the famous poet, Awel Sied. The other app is Eri-Wallpapers; we collected many old and new photos of different sites in Eritrea and made an app that allows you to make them your phone’s wallpaper. Qenietat Tigrigna is our third app; it’s based on the book written in 1994 by Berhane Zerai. We thought of it as a game; it’s about sentences and words that have double meanings. It intrigues, informs and entertains users. We have two apps still in development — one is called Saida, the Tigrigna version of an app called Flow. It’s made particularly for pregnant women. The other app still in the making is a compilation of Abraham Afworki songs, including the lyrics. We believe he is a legend and his work should be made more accessible and preserved for posterity.

  • What inspired you to create those projects?

Natnael: The main thing that inspired us to develop Learn.net is the limitations of analog tools and resources of connectivity and interactivity that we witnessed. We wanted to accomplish an innovative digital learning, mentoring, and informal learning experience through our web. We also wanted to ensure that all young people, whatever their background, are able to thrive and use their potential. Above all, we wanted everyone to have easy access to educational materials.

Krubiel: The reason we developed those apps is that they seemed very essential to our community. For example, we got inspired to build the app Hagery because almost everyone around us was collecting the videos of the poet. Imagine how much space that could take and the time and energy you spend to search for each and every poem. So, we decided to collect them all and make them available to everyone.

  • Your skills are very visible in your products, which seem to have been built by a computer engineer. How were you able to achieve that?

Krubiel: When I was in the fourth grade I enrolled in a basic programming class. Then Natnael joined me shortly after. We did the four levels of the course and then proceeded to Robotics. But it was when we were in partial lockdown due to Covid-19 that we developed our skills further. We studied other programming languages, watched tutorials on video and our mother provided us with the books we needed. To showcase our capabilities, we made our first software based on our dad’s request. The software we developed was inventory report controlling software for the Ministry of Finance.

  • Speaking of your father, introduce us to 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 Institute of Technology at Mainefhi. Our parents’ role has been crucial. Since we were kids they have bought us laptops and every gadget we have needed. They have been very supportive and give us the freedom to try whatever we want to. When we learned how to program they were the ones who came up with the ideas of what to create, and if we have an idea they are the first to evaluate it. Overall, they have been our cornerstone in this journey.

  • What obstacles have you faced?

Natnael: Our main obstacle has been Covid-19. For the websites to be usable we needed to do Meta tests, especially Learn.net, which was meant to be tested on students and we couldn’t accomplish that. Also, society’s knowledge about digital education is so low we need a platform to advertise and inform people on the importance of the web, and we have not attained the platform until now. Of course, as we said our parents do their best to provide us with the resources we need but sometimes we do face a scarcity of resources.

  • Any other message?

We want to thank our parents, our mentors, Eng. Sham Mesfin for his guidance in every step, our uncle, Eng. Henok Haile, and our teacher, Yacob Merhawi, for tirelessly working with us on the mobile applications we are creating.

  • Thank you and good luck!